Advice for Future Implementations
Part of the InTeGrate Washington State Colleges and Universities Program Model
Consideration of context:
A key component that made this program not only possible but necessary was the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards by the state of Washington, and the widespread recognition amongst faculty across the state that our current teacher preparation programs were not sufficiently preparing students to teach them. In acknowledging the need for change, we were able to provide a supportive process to facilitate that change.
Despite the fact that IHEs are widely geographically dispersed across the state, there was a history of a strong community through organizations like the Teachers of Teachers of Science (TOTOS). TOTOS had not been very active in recent years, so the community had drifted apart to some extent. In the meantime, many new people had joined the broader teacher preparation community with new ideas and experiences.
Things that worked well that we would do again
Strategic planning for workshops
The SWOT analyses, NGSS alignment surveys, and the visioning exercises allowed institutions to see themselves as collaborators in the effort to create excellent STEM teachers. In particular, building in time for groups to assess and discuss where they were through the SWOT analysis prior to engaging in blue-sky thinking was important. We purposefully did not want to dwell on the barriers and obstacles to change, but knew we had to get them on the table before being able to make progress.
Workshops built around small-group discussions
Workshops were highly interactive rather than presentation-based, allowing for questions, conversation, and sharing of ideas. We constantly moved between small groups of different compositions, keeping track of the discussion and notes in a shared workspace on the website so that everyone could see the results of the discussions. Report-outs led to large-group discussions and synthesis of ideas.
Strategies for overcoming challenges
Facilitating broad participation
While we were pleased with the level of participation from the four-year institutions that grant the vast majority of teaching degrees in the state, we struggled to get similar levels of participation from two-year colleges, whose students transfer in to the four-year programs, and from active K-12 teachers and administrators. At each workshop, we were able to attract a few practicing teachers from the local district or alums of the institution that hosted the workshop, but it was difficult to achieve consistency.
Getting work done outside of workshops
We knew that it was unrealistic to expect geographically dispersed working groups to find time to work together and make progress in between workshops. So we tried to accommodate as much working time during the workshops as possible, and identify individuals who could carry the work of the group forward.
Things to think about before you start this type of project
With a collaboration this big and broad, it is challenging to go from developing a vision to implementing it in a year. While there is no way we could have established the agendas for the three workshops a year in advance, it would have been helpful to set the dates and locations so that people could plan ahead.