What Teachers Need For a Successful New Initiative
When it comes to implementing new curricula, there are four needs that teachers have consistently told us over the years that could lead to a more comfortable adoption: efficiency/accessibility, onboarding training, materials, and time.
This list is in no way exclusive, but it might be a good starting point for administrators to start understanding how to successfully implement a new program or curriculum that teachers are excited about and will consistently use.
1) Efficiency and accessibility: Every school day is a whirlwind. Each second is accounted for, and there are usually multiple tasks that teachers are keeping track of at any given moment. So the last thing a teacher needs during instruction is a slow or crashing laptop or software.
Especially in the age of digital curricula, it is absolutely critical that time-crunched teachers are able to access curriculum materials at all times. Accessibility includes efficient and working internet throughout the building, efficient hardware (e.g., laptops and computers), and user-friendly interfaces. Before purchasing curricula, make sure that at least these three criteria are met to eliminate or reduce teacher frustration around accessibility.
2) Onboarding training: In addition to learning how to access the curriculum and navigate its platform, teachers need to understand the frameworks the curriculum operates on. For example:
By “STEM”, does the curriculum actually mean “science plus some math”, or “early career introductions to engineering plus science and math connections”?
How does the program define student success?
Is the curriculum student or teacher-led?
How do I know when a lesson/unit is complete?
What might differentiation look like?
How strictly will the curriculum align with standards?
Understanding early on how the curriculum looks and feels - prior to implementation - will help inform teachers of what to expect and give them more confidence to steer instruction.
3) Materials: This is perhaps the biggest pain point we hear from teachers. It is absolutely critical that administrators cover all curriculum expenses for teachers. If implementing Project-Based Learning, schools must either provide teachers with the materials needed for instruction or demonstrate exactly how to use already/readily-available resources, such as recyclables or existing school supplies.
4) Time: Perhaps the trickiest part of adopting a new curriculum is in finding the time to teach it, and administrators should give clear expectations as to when or how often the curriculum should be taught. We’ve seen this being done in a number of ways with Design SySTEM. Here are some examples:
i) “Teachers, have fun with the new curriculum this year. This year’s goal is to get your feet wet. Teach the new curriculum when you have time at any point in the year. We’d like your thoughts by the end.”
ii) “Grade level teams, determine when you’ll use this curriculum amongst yourselves. Please complete  units by the end of the year.”
iii) “Teachers, please teach engineering to your classes during your science blocks, after an aligning science unit is complete. For example, if you just finished a unit on the solar system in science, you may want to teach the astronautical engineering unit in that time block for the next week.”
iv) “The school will celebrate Engineers Week on [the week of February 18]. Every classroom will deliver engineering instruction from [9 to 11 every morning that week].
Interested in seeing how Design SySTEM will look and feel in your classroom? This summer, we are launching a new initiative to help teachers and administrators take their time in exploring the Design SySTEM curriculum before beginning the new school year. If you are a school teacher or administrator interested in the Design SySTEM curriculum for the 2019-2020 school year, fill out the form found on this page for free summer access to the entire curriculum.
And, if you’re a home-schooling parent or a parent looking for fresh and fun STEM instruction for the summer, we are offering 50% off purchasing the Design SySTEM activity workbook from now until August 31, 2019. Check out this page to learn how!
Sign up for our free trial to Design SySTEM to see how we make teaching STEM informative, fun, and simple to implement.