High-quality instruction in STEM requires both teaching expertise and content knowledge. Yet, at the elementary school level, many teachers haven’t had any specialized education or training in science, leaving them at a loss for PD in STEM.

At the secondary level, studies show that about 33 percent of middle school math and science teachers and 30 percent of high school chemistry and physics teachers didn’t major in these fields and haven’t earned a certificate to teach them.

In 2014, Hillsborough County Public Schools and Polk County Public Schools received a three-year $4.5 million Math-Science Partnership Grant from the Florida Department of Education. Working in partnership with the University of South Florida, the purpose of our grant project, Accelerating Maximum Potential in STEM (AMP-STEM), is to increase teachers’ PD in STEM through content knowledge and their ability to create high-quality, standards-based, integrated STEM lessons for grades 3-12.

AMP-STEM has three components: Summer Institutes, STEM Certification Courses, and STEM Writer Academies.

Our teachers across all grade levels have made great strides in developing their STEM content knowledge and teaching skills. We’ve also learned a few PD in STEM lessons along the way. Here are a few:

1. Take a constructivist approach.

In traditional “sit and get” PD, it’s easy to overwhelm teachers with content or pedagogy. Instead, we conduct PD within a constructivist framework to actively engage and challenge teachers to think at higher levels. By modeling, and involving teachers in, best practices in STEM, we’re increasing their ability to apply these practices in their own classrooms.

(Next page: PD in STEM tips 2-6)

About the Author:

Larry Plank is the director of K-12 STEM education in Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida. Tomeka F. Thompson, M.Ed, is the Mathematics & Science Partnerships (MSP) program coordinator in Polk County Public Schools in Florida.