A good teacher is always looking for ways to become a better teacher. Just as a good school is always looking for ways to become a better school. As a STEM teacher, one of the most powerful professional development tools I’ve ever experienced was visiting a neighboring STEM school and talking with the faculty and students about their experiences implementing STEM. That focused school visit allowed me to gain insights in to what other teachers, students, and administrators felt were important in STEM instruction.
I came away with ideas for myself to better my teaching practice, classroom management, and so did my administration. Not everyone who participates in a school site visit will gain the same knowledge. The needs of our individual school situations determine how ideas seen in other STEM schools and programs are implemented. Observational learning is not simple imitation but requires critical thinking in how to apply the knowledge or ideas gained to different school and classroom settings. For example, the STEM activities we observed didn’t fit into our curriculum and schedule. Instead we incorporated those ideas into an enrichment program after school hours.
The practice of observation can be used to learn more about STEM instructional styles and practices, program types, and innovative integration across a school. There are numerous successful ways to foster design thinking, work with tools and technology, and demonstrate problem solving.
I would often become fixed in my own routines as a teacher because I was not frequently exposed to new ideas and practices. I found it very invigorating to see that learning can be just as effective from a different approach. Taking what others have found to be relevant and adapting that to fit the needs of our own schools and classrooms helps create strong, versatile educators.
One of my professional goals is to frequently expose myself to other talented educators so that I can improve my practice, and students will reap the benefits. That is one reason I am so excited about the upcoming Innovative STEM School Site Tours this spring. Having access to educational leaders, teachers, and students who are employing pioneering strategies to engage students in STEM learning will be a great tool for anyone who is interested in discovering what STEM looks like across our state.
STEM School Chattanooga will open their doors to stakeholders interested in visiting a highly innovative school that is fostering a culture of student ownership within their learning experiences on February 15. You can register here.
By: Brandi Stroecker