May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Raising the Prestige of Teaching STEM

Posted: Friday, May 20th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

What makes a career prestigious?  Is it the power it wields? The number of people it impacts? The required number years of training? The amount of the monthly paycheck? According to dictionary.com, prestige is defined as:

“…reputation or influence arising from success, achievement, rank, or other favorable attributes.”

Space Shuttle Independence Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

Space Shuttle Independence
Houston Space Center Photo by Lisa Hegdahl

At the Houston Space Center, control site for 17 Apollo missions, 275 representatives gathered for the 5th Annual 100Kin10 Partner Summit to explore the question of how to continue to go above and beyond in taking on the grand challenges of training and retaining great STEM teachers.   One of those challenges is identified as –  “teaching lacks prestige and is not widely perceived as a top career choice for STEM graduates”.  Small group sessions allowed partners to examine the issue from a variety of perspectives and experiences.

What is 100Kin10?

In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama “announced a national goal to prepare 100,000 new teachers in science, technology, engineering, and math over the next decade.”

100Kin10 is an expanding network of more than 230 partner organizations, each taking on a piece of work to contribute to the goal of 100,000 excellent STEM teachers.  CSTA became a member in 2013 joining the nation’s top academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, companies, and government agencies, among others, that contribute to the goal by recruiting stronger STEM teachers, transforming how STEM teachers are hired, supported, and developed, or changing policy, sharing the STEM story with the wider world, and contributing funds towards the 100Kin10 goal.

STEM Teacher Image

Hegdahl2According to Zachary Levine of TEACH, there are several contributing factors to the current image of STEM teachers.  Most people believe that teachers primarily deliver instruction, administer quizzes, and assign homework.  However the STEM classroom of 2016 looks much different than the classrooms of our grandparents, parents, and even those of my 23 year old nephew.   The Next Generation of Science Standards, Common Core, and advancements in technology have transformed classrooms into problem solving and sense making environments that have in turn required changes in the role of STEM teachers and how they interact with their students.

Do these skills look familiar?

  • Public speaking that can captivate a room and inspire interest in any topic
  • Thinking on one’s feet and showing poise under pressure
  • Setting long term goals for people and then mapping out steps that lead to that goal
  • Motivating people and earning their trust
  • Analyzing data to drive decisions
  • Having an incredibly strong work ethic

Hegdahl3While teachers may readily recognize them as skills they use daily in their classrooms, it might be surprising to know that they are also skills developed at Stanford’s School of Business.  Turning the focus from what teachers do to the expertise needed to carry out the role of a teacher, is critical when attempting to update the image of STEM teaching.

Melanie Narish, a Talent Officer for Great Hearts Academies, believes there are three ways to increase STEM teacher prestige.

  1. Change the language about why we teach STEM –
    1. STEM teaching is a noble tradition that is not all about the answers, but about the questions.
    2. Teachers teach these subjects because the subjects are amazing. STEM content allows us to have awe of the world around us.
  2. Cultivate teachers who exude wonder and inquiry.
    1. Professional development should invigorate teachers as well as students.
  3. Veteran teachers should interact with college students who show an interest in STEM teaching.
    1. Determine which teachers would represent the profession well.
    2. Go out to the students and meet them in person.
    3. Share the true vision of the life of STEM teachers.
      1. Share the joy and nobility of the profession through stories.
      2. Have students reflect on what will make them happy in a lifelong profession.

100kin10The 100Kin10 organization identified the root causes of low STEM Teaching prestige as:

  • Insufficient incentives to join the profession
  • Cultural norms devalue teaching
  • Lack of diversity in the STEM teacher workforce
  • Poor teaching conditions
  • Lack of support and understanding from higher education

Although I participated in several discussions around this topic over the two day Summit, I would be dishonest if I said that we reached a consensus about the reasons for the lack of STEM teaching prestige or the next best course of action.  I did, however, receive a new awareness of the concerns of the larger 100Kin10 partnership around the issue and how it will affect the goal of cultivating 100,000 new STEM teachers in, now, five years.  CSTA is committed to the 100Kin10 goal and continues to move forward to promote high quality science instruction by highly skilled science teachers.

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Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th-grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is Past-President of CSTA.

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 2017)

Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the California NGSS k-8 Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.