As STEM education becomes increasingly important in today’s job market, it’s crucial for teachers to stay up-to-date with the latest teaching methods and technologies. However, it can be difficult to find professional development designed for STEM teachers… STEM is NOT an “I do, we do, you do,” type of class. The PD we need is different. This guide provides a list of *free-ish* STEM professional development, that I have personal experience with and would recommend to other STEM teachers.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. This means I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you.
Identify your STEM professional development needs.
Before embarking on any professional development program, it’s important to identify your specific needs as a STEM teacher. This can include areas where you feel less confident or knowledgeable, as well as areas where you want to expand your skills or knowledge. Consider taking a self-assessment (such as this Teach STEM self-assessment tool) or seeking feedback from colleagues or supervisors to help identify your areas of focus.
Then take a few minutes to reflect on your preferred learning format. Whether you thrive in hands-on workshops, prefer self-paced online courses, or like to hold a book, choosing a format that aligns with your learning style can maximize your growth and engagement.
Once you have a clear understanding of your needs, you can better select a professional development program that will meet those needs.
For book lovers…
One way to enhance your STEM teaching skills is to read books written by experts in the field. Here are some recommended books to add to your reading list:
1. “3D Printing Projects” by DK
This book is probably written with kids in mind… There are lots of big, bright pictures, but it has great background information if you are new to 3D printing, and so many interesting project ideas! This is a great read for a teacher looking to add a 3D printer to their classroom.
2. “Computer Science in K-12: An A to Z Handbook on Teaching Programming” by Shuchi Grover
This is a great book for those who are new to teaching computer science. It covers all the basic concepts, and provides many examples of how to implement coding in the classroom.
3. “Engineering Essentials for Instruction” by Pamela Truesdell
This is a short, powerful read jam packed with tips for enhancing engineering design thinking in your classroom. If you are new to STEM or need tips for how to teach students the engineering design process, this is the one for you!
This book offers many great tips for PBL learning with big kids. The author promotes cross-curricular learning and shows the many benefits of PBL.
5. “Robotics Programming and Math: A Guide for Teachers and Students” by Robin Sitzler-Fraizer
This book is perfect for a teacher just getting started with robotics. There is so much background information and helpful tips to ease your anxieties as you get started with new technology. You’ll refer back to this one a lot.
6. “STEM by Design: Strategies and Activities for Grades 4-8” by Anne Jolly
This is my absolute #1 recommendation for anyone new to STEM. The author does an amazing job explaining the philosophy behind STEM education and walking you through how to design your own STEM projects and evaluate those created by others. This is a must-have on your STEM teacher bookshelf!
These books offer valuable insights and practical strategies for enhancing your STEM teaching skills and improving student outcomes. Each one is more than worth the valuable space it will take up on your teacher bookshelf!
For online course junkies…
If logging on your computer and working through videos, assignments, and a set curriculum is more your speed, there are many free online professional development opportunities available for STEM teachers.
Here are a few that have made a great impact on my STEM teaching practices:
Code.org’s Professional Learning
Code.org offers in-person computer science teacher workshops in certain areas, but they also offer a bunch of free self-paced learning modules. With courses that target fundamental skills and others that dive into AI and app creation, there’s something for everyone.
National Geographic’s Online Courses for Educators
NatGeo offers many free courses perfect for Science and STEM teachers. Some are on-demand and self-paced and others live with a paced cohort. You can choose the format and content best for you.
National Science Teaching Association Professional Learning
NSTA offers live webinars and asynchronous short courses on a wide range of relevant STEM topics. You don’t have to be a member to participate, but if you are, you can score a discount on the courses that aren’t free.
For in-person collaboration…
If you thrive on sharing ideas and being on a set schedule, check out local STEM PD opportunities. Many museums, universities and non-profit organizations offer in-person workshops and training sessions for STEM teachers. These can be a great way to network with other teachers in your area and get hands-on experience with new teaching strategies and technologies… sometimes these even come with a stipend!
Check websites and sign up for the mailing lists of local educational organizations to see what opportunities are available in your area.
What did I miss?
What awesome STEM PD have you been a part of? Comment and share below!