Over the past five years I-STEM has engaged 32 school districts and over 2,000 K-8 teachers in the Indiana Science Initiative (ISI) using an inquiry-based, research-developed science curriculum. Within three of those districts we have cultivated STEM teacher leaders, but lack the funding to build a systemic program of mentorship to support the building level teachers with whom they work. Although student achievement in ISI has improved as a direct reflection of professional development, with teacher turnover rates approaching 25% it has been challenging to retain teachers and to provide ongoing professional development for new teachers. It has been the experience of ISI and its participating corporations that when new teachers enter a STEM classroom for the first time, they lack the necessary pedagogical and subject matter content knowledge to successfully implement an inquiry-based curriculum that aligns with the practices in Indiana’s Academic Standards. They also frequently lack the support of mentors who can work with them in their classroom to improve their instructional practice while juggling many non-instructional responsibilities.
I-STEM continues to offer professional development to teachers and administrators throughout Indiana. In addition to multi-day trainings on ISI kits and pedagogy, I-STEM in partnership with school districts across Indiana (Richmond Community Schools, South Bend Community Schools and Evansville Vanderburgh Schools) has several grants that support summer professional development and STEM Saturdays during the school year. Teachers participating in these grants are exposed to improved instructional practices in mathematics, science and engineering and the integration of these three disciplines. In two of these districts, Evansville and Richmond, the grant supports STEM camp for approximately 320 students, during which teachers have the opportunity to practice the lessons that they learned during professional development.
Additional information on ISI trainings can be found at the ISI website: www.indianascience.org.
Purdue offers additional online training for teachers at http://online.purdue.edu/ldt/learning-design-technology/resources.