This is the fourth in a series of posts on takeaways in facilitating STEM professional development for informal educators.
4. Informal educators want long-term professional development
South Dakota is a very rural and geographically large state, making travel a challenge in both time and expense for both the participants and the facilitators. Recognizing the importance of making that personal connection with the informal educators, we offered face-to-face professional development a variety of times and in multiple regions throughout the state. What we found is that those participating in the face-to-face workshops were hungry for more, and they wanted the staff who were not able to attend, to learn about and experience the wonderful STEM resources. They wanted more than a “shot-in-the-arm” model of professional development. Just what we, the facilitators, were hoping would be the result.
To address this, we worked with a NASA curriculum specialist to provide webinars. The webinars were consistently offered and repeated at different times during the day to accommodate schedules. These webinars were “informal” in their presentation. This resulted in a HIGHLY interactive experience that had many laughs along with the learning. Participants in these webinars developed an awesome STEM support network they continue to access. Video-conferencing also was utilized.
Offering professional development in a hybrid format provided the informal educators an opportunity to learn and experience STEM in small amounts. This allowed time for reflection and application of what they learned without the feeling of being overwhelmed. This definitely contributed to building their confidence to teach STEM.