STEM Professional Development That Works


Our question: How can policymakers support standards-based reform?

Standards-based reforms in science and mathematics often require significant teacher learning, particularly of subject matter content and new instructional practices. Thus, since the first calls for standards-based reforms, circa 1990, reformers have explored several avenues for supporting teachers’ growth.  New curriculum materials, such as those produced to align to the Framework for Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards, aim to provide concrete support for disciplinary practices, core ideas, and cross-cutting content. And since the inception of standards-based reforms, new forms of professional development have proliferated; according to a recent national report, STEM teachers engage in activities that include coaching, teacher study groups, rehearsals of practice and online courses (Banilower, Smith, Malzahn, Plumley, Gordon, & Hayes, 2018). In those settings, teachers revise instructional practice, study new curriculum materials and interpret student assessment data.

But this raises an important question for policymakers: to what extent do these new curriculum materials and professional learning experiences work to improve student outcomes?