2. Create inquiry-based learning experiences.

We want our teachers to use the 5E instructional model, so we use this framework to deliver our content training. This not only makes the training more engaging, but it makes it easier for teachers to then apply these strategies with their students.

3. Use the same tools students will be using.

As part of these inquiry-based learning experiences, we use the same tools we expect teachers to use in their classrooms. Toward that end, we integrated PASCO Scientific sensors, data collection and analysis software, and science learning devices into our training. With these tools, teachers can see what it’s like to collect, analyze and report on data, which builds their confidence and helps with lesson planning. As a result, they can now better plan for student questions and misconceptions, and they have a better grasp of the real-world applications of these tools.

4. Emphasize the content, not the technology.

Technology — even if it’s designed to be user-friendly — is still intimidating for some teachers. By allowing teachers to learn how to operate technologies such as probeware within the context of a STEM lesson, it feels more natural and less like “tech training.”

5. Clearly describe your courses, including prerequisite knowledge and skills.

In our first year, we discovered that we didn’t market our STEM Certification Courses very well. As a result, we didn’t fill the courses and some participants didn’t have the base level of content knowledge expected for the course. In our second year, we were much more clear in our marketing materials, and our courses will filled to capacity with teachers who were ready for them.

6. Take the time to learn from each other.

We often try to solve challenges on our own — when the district next door might have a solution. It was very beneficial for teachers to sit together and realize they face similar struggles, and collaborate to find a solution. In fact, teachers frequently remarked on how much they learned from each other through this cross-district collaboration.

Thanks to AMP-STEM, our teachers are increasing their cross-curricular content knowledge and strategies for integrating STEM concepts into their classrooms. In our Summer Institutes, teachers’ pre- and post-test results show that we’re having a measurable impact on their content knowledge.

Similarly, with our STEM Certification Courses, we’ve increased the number of certified mathematics, chemistry and physics teachers in our middle and high schools. As we complete the third year of our grant, we look forward to seeing the impact this will have on student achievement.

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.