Throughout these workshops, the STEM Ed program employs the same design constraint that it aims to teach: the democratic STEM teaching framework. Working primarily with protocols developed for facilitative leadership, STEM Ed “constrains behavior in order to enhance experience.” We curate protocol-driven learning experiences that surface unique funds of knowledge, distribute authority equally, and sharpen critical thinking about pedagogy. The result is a unique learning culture that deeply values dialogue about the way we work (our process). During the first workshop of the fellowship, Fellows develop agreements about how the group will work together based on collective hopes and fears. We revisit these agreements at each subsequent workshop and tweak when necessary. Our process is an object of constant study.
In the language of adult development theory, STEM Ed Innovators creates a parallel process. We do not exist to prescribe skills and best practices. Rather, we ask our Fellows to become learners in a structured environment that parallels the classroom. This is indirect and implicit learning with built in reflective structures that amplify the impact of the explicit teaching within workshops. Regardless of the problem of practice that Fellows choose, the underlying process challenges Fellows to reconsider their classroom from the perspective of the learner.
Investments in the professional capital of teachers are increasingly recognized as primary drivers of positive classroom outcomes, especially in urban education environments. The STEM Ed experience is such an investment in professional capital. Our Fellows exit the program with impactful pedagogical tools and membership in a critical, supportive community. Many even go on to lead professional development programs within their schools that incorporate elements of the STEM Ed experience. We love to see our Fellows develop over time and are deeply inspired by the extraordinary learning environments that they create for, and with, their students.