STEMpath: Advancing STEM Education through Educators
Melissa Sayre, mindSpark Learning
Colorado has become a technology hub with STEM-based businesses moving into the area, creating new jobs, and drawing STEM talent from all corners. STEM careers are among the fastest growing in the nation with top jobs found in Healthcare, Information Technology, Finance, Construction Trades, and Engineering (Colorado Talent Report, 2016). The national average of projected STEM growth between 2014 and 2024 is 6.5%, while Colorado’s projected STEM growth is double that at an impressive 13% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Despite this growth, there is an alarming deficit of STEM-prepared workers. This deficit needs to be addressed in order for Colorado to maintain a sustainable STEM industry.
While Colorado is struggling to meet growing economic demands, industry employers have been facing the reality of a workforce that does not have the skills needed for STEM jobs. In attempts to address this issue and create a sustainable pipeline of future STEM employees, industry partners have been funding myriads of STEM programs for students. However, these attempts will prove futile. There is a missing link that impedes long-term sustainability: highly qualified STEM teachers. Yes, the STEM industry is booming and actively involved in education. Yes, exciting and successful STEM programs are in place for students. And yes, funding is actually available. However, the absence of highly qualified STEM teachers will prove to be the key without which a sustainable STEM pipeline is an impossible dream.
It is amidst the current climate of a STEM/CS workforce that is desperate for skilled workers and reeling from teacher shortages and insufficient teacher preparation programs, that mSL presents STEMpath: the revolutionary teacher preparation pathway that will meet the needs of educators, students, and ultimately, the workforce. STEMpath is a graduate-level teacher certification program that provides educators with the competence, relevance, capacity, and skills to teach STEM and computer science (CS), while earning 24 graduate level credits. This 12-month program fuses three critical components of teacher preparation and intertwines them into one unparalleled learning experience: it combines work-based learning through industry externships; graduate-level CS coursework (in algorithms and programming, IT systems, and cybersecurity regulations and laws); and professional learning (in career literacy, information science, and equity-centered design thinking).
STEMpath has the potential to transform STEM and CS education practices in a manner that significantly boosts the confidence and skills in STEM and CS pathways for educators and traditionally underrepresented students through improved techniques for preparing educators and exposing students to the spectrum of CS/CT competencies. The STEMpath team has found that intentional professional development (PD) that focuses on building educators’ knowledge of CS, computational thinking, literacy of technology careers, equity-centered design thinking, and real world technology work experience leads to improved teacher motivation and confidence, increased teacher commitment to teaching, enhanced teacher knowledge and abilities, sustained positive changes to classroom practices, and improved student outcomes in STEM/CS fields.
- Calling Colorado Educators: Become the Epicenter of Change in STEM Education through STEMpath (Press Release) Link
- Allstate Foundation to Support mindSpark Learning’s Next Denver Education Accelerator (Press Release) Link
- Unprecedented STEMpath Program Kicks off First Summer of Externships for Current Cohort (Yahoo News) Link
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