This is the second in a series of posts on takeaways in facilitating STEM professional development for informal educators.
2. Informal educators are eager to learn content and methodology
As discussed in the previous post, most informal educators (and classroom teachers I might add) experience anxiety when it comes to teaching STEM. In addition to their personal STEM learning experiences, much of this anxiety comes from two sources: fear of not knowing the content and not understanding how to effectively teach STEM. This means they are facing two challenges simultaneously: Subject matter and content-based teaching methodology.
Most of the informal educators participating in the NASA SD Summer of Innovation program do not have a strong background in STEM. Right or wrong, the initial focus was simply doing activities with some content support. Once the educators were comfortable “doing” science, more background and in-depth content was added along with methodology. They moved from a “show me an activity to do” thought process to “help me to more deeply understand what I am doing” thought process. They wanted a meaningful learning experience in STEM.
Gaining confidence in STEM content knowledge, they were ready to learn content-based teaching knowledge. They want their students to have meaningful experiences in STEM. Generally speaking, informal educators participating in the NASA SD Summer of Innovation program do not have education degrees. As confidence grew among the educators, they asked questions related to content-specific methodology. Although we modeled effective teaching strategies from the start using the 5-E Model as our foundation, we became more deliberate in explaining STEM teaching strategies.
What an experience it is to watch the educators move from simply “doing” activities to completing design challenges. They are now deliberately implementing the engineering design process into their programs. The educators, and their students, produced some awesome products!