Hands-on, interactive professional development prepares teachers to teach new STEM curriculum

Dozens of teachers from across Iowa are headed July 19-29 to the University of Iowa College of Engineering for hands-on, interactive professional development that will prepare them to offer new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) curriculum to students in grades K-12.

The teachers are from schools taking advantage of the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council’s STEM Scale-Up Initiative by implementing one of four programs from Project Lead The Way

(PLTW), the nation’s leading provider of integrated, hands-on and project-based STEM programs.

The University of Iowa College of Engineering will host nine separate professional development sessions over a two week period, training approximately 75 teachers to offer PLTW Launch in grades K-5 or PLTW Engineering or PLTW Computer Science for high school students. Unlike other professional development, this training offers visual examples of the hands-on, project-based curricula that students in Iowa will experience in the 2015-2016 school year.  Teachers will engage in hands-on and project-based STEM curricula, including biomedical science, computer science, and engineering-based activities

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nationwide employment in STEM jobs is expected to grow to more than 9 million by 2022. An estimated 1.2 million STEM jobs will be unfilled by 2018 because of a lack of skilled workers. Worse yet, the U.S. education system is not preparing today’s student for these future jobs, especially girls and minority students. Take the findings of the 2013 National Assessment for Educational Progress – which is often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card:
  • Only 42 percent of U.S. fourth graders and only 35 percent of eighth graders are proficient in math.
  • At the 12th-grade level, only 26 percent of high school seniors scored at or above proficient in math.
  • Only 21 percent of U.S. 12th graders tested proficient in science.

To combat this crisis, the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council launched the STEM Scale-Up initiative and has partnered with leading STEM education provider, Project Lead The Way (PLTW), to help students develop stronger STEM knowledge and skills. Of the 14 STEM Scale-Up programs supported by the STEM Council, four are from PLTW. Together, these four programs create a relevant, engaging K-12 pathway for students.

The PLTW curriculum is activity-, project-, and problem-based. Through hands-on learning, PLTW students explore math and science concepts and discover how they can be used as tools to solve real-world problems. Students build confidence in math and science, as well as transportable, in-demand such as problem solving, collaboration, and critical thinking, preparing them to solve important challenges, compete in the workforce, and take advantage of in-demand, high-paying jobs.

PLTW’s curricula is supplemented by a rigorous professional development program, conducted in partnership with approximately 60 colleges, universities and other institutions across the country. The University of Iowa College of Engineering has served as a PLTW Affiliate University since 2006, offering PLTW Core Training each summer.

The STEM Council launched the STEM Scale-Up Initiative in 2011. By partnering with existing, high-quality STEM education programs, the STEM Council has reached more than 100,000 young Iowa learners through approximately 2,800 educators. Results from the 2013-2014 Iowa STEM evaluation report show more than 90 percent of students who participated in a STEM Scale-Up program reported higher interest in at least one STEM subject or career. Nearly 75 percent of participating teachers report greater skill and confidence in teaching STEM and continue their program after the STEM Council’s financial support ends.