Why a STEM Teacher Leader Collaborative (TLC)?
Elementary schools that serve large populations of non-dominant youth often privilege literacy and mathematics instruction because those are the subjects included in high-stakes accountability testing. Unfortunately, there is often little time allocated for science and engineering instruction, content areas that can bolster literacy and mathematics achievement and learning. Teachers working in high-needs settings often feel isolated and need support to sustain innovative science and engineering instruction. We are committed to nurturing equity in science and engineering by empowering teacher leaders. Our goal is to transform the landscape of elementary STEM education in the NC Piedmont Triad by supporting, connecting, and retaining current and future STEM-capable, imaginative, and motivated elementary teachers.
What is a Collaborative?
A collaborative is a network of elementary teachers, pre-service teachers, and teacher educators who meet regularly (face-to-face and virtually), offer one another professional support and sustain one another’s professional learning and satisfaction. The STEM TLC engages teachers and UNCG faculty and students with authentic opportunities to learn from and with one another.
The STEM TLC leverages engineering as a context to explore important problems of practice that teachers deem important for their entire curriculum—e.g., facilitating meaningful student collaboration and argumentation, differentiating instruction for all learners, and integrating writing, reading, speaking, and listening throughout the curriculum.
Why is “Engineering” the Initial Driving Mechanism for the TLC?
Engineering instruction provides elementary teachers with unique learning opportunities, nudging them out of comfortable teacher-led strategies that emphasize one right answer toward instruction that emphasizes student talk, meaning-making, and collaboration. Engineering can be easily integrated with science, mathematics, literacy, and social studies, so there are many ways to creatively weave it into the school day. Since engineering is new to most elementary teachers, they experience a steep learning curve, which levels the playing field between novice and expert teachers. This makes for exciting professional development and rich teacher learning.
Engineering also can potentially transform the culture of traditional classrooms. Students solve real-world problems, learn to collaborate with peers, engage in productive argumentation, work through failure, use data to inform design decisions, deepen science knowledge, and feel a genuine sense of accomplishment when their designs are successful. These practices prompt broader meanings of “smart student”, which provide students who may struggle in traditional academic areas opportunities to get recognized as “smart engineers” (Hegedus, Carlone, & Carter, 2014).