Sep 11 2017

Western Kentucky University Offers Middle-School Teachers PD and Community

Teachers can leverage STEM concepts more easily with 21st-century training and collaboration.

With colleges developing programs to teach future educators how to foster digital literacy and educate learners on the engineering design process, partnerships with higher education institutions have become one of the most valuable tools for K–12 educators, especially those teaching science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses.

Western Kentucky University’s Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science developed another type of successful partnership with its National STEM Scholar Program. Under the philosophy of “train the trainer,” the program takes 10 middle-school science teachers from across the United States and gives them a week of professional development and networking, Campus Technology reports.

“Research shows that children in middle school who become excited about science are the ones who will pursue STEM courses in high school and major in STEM subjects at the college level,” says Paula Grisanti, the chairman of the National Stem Cell Foundation, which funds the program, in a statement.

Julia Roberts, the executive director of Gatton Academy, agrees that by helping K–12 educators learn to teach modern-day science skills, students will be prepared to succeed at the college level, something that has been a concern for STEM majors.

Innovative Teachers Leverage Collaboration and Community

For educators looking to innovate in the classroom, establishing a community is highly important. Large companies like Microsoft established their own communities of innovative educators who offer each other lesson plans and advice.

One of our must-read bloggers, Amy Pietrowski, writes that a first step for any educator wanting to introduce more STEM content into classes is to find a buddy.

“As teachers, we no longer live in the single-classroom bubble and neither do our students,” she writes on EdTech.

Pietrowski recommends that teachers reach out on Twitter to find a professional learning community. Through hashtags like #edtechchat, educators are constantly offering each other advice.

For the Western Kentucky University program, establishing this kind of community is an important part of the teacher training. Roberts says after the week, the educators are given a challenge to implement in their classroom during the following school year. Leveraging the connections they made during their professional development is an integral part of that process.

“They have carried forward with their collaboration from the very beginning,” she says.

During their training, these teachers used one of the most popular K–12 devices: the Chromebook. Roberts says by giving Chromebooks to each of the teachers, they could work together more easily because of the cloud-based work environment created by G Suite for Education.

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