Leadership in Integrative STEM Education: A New Resource Coming Your Way!

 In Administrator Resources, Climate, Districts, Leadership Development, Principal Programs, Professional Development Opportunities, School Leader Paradigm

Written by Rachel Louise Geesa, Mary Annette Rose, and Krista Marie Stith

Preparing creative problem solvers for a scientifically- and technologically-driven future requires authentic learning experiences where science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) content and practices are intentionally integrated. Integrative approaches to STEM, and other disciplines, within PK-12 schools offer much promise in helping prepare critical thinkers. Integrative STEM experiences challenge students to examine phenomena and develop solutions to authentic problems as scientists, technologists, engineers, artists, and mathematicians. These experiences enable students to explore and prepare for careers and higher education in STEM and non-STEM fields.  

Transitioning to integrative STEM programming that serves all students requires a shift in school culture and in teaching practices (Meyers & Berkowicz, 2015). Educational leaders play an important role in navigating an integrative STEM culture through the collaborative engagement of school-community stakeholders and supporting teachers in implementing integrative teaching practices. 

Educational leaders can initiate, foster, and sustain STEM or STEAM (the ‘A’ represents the arts) educational opportunities. Integrating different disciplines within lessons, schedules, and planning teams requires collaborative skills and takes time to plan, facilitate, and effectively execute. STEM pedagogies (e.g., problem-based, project-based and design-based learning, inquiry, and experimentation) provide opportunities for educators and their students to learn and apply interdisciplinary concepts and practices. With support, educational leaders can be catalysts for the preparation of integrative STEM learning environments and curricular programming for PK-12 students.

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Leadership in Integrative STEM Education, a soon-to-be released edited book published by Roman & Littlefield, is a concise guide we designed for educational leaders who want to develop, implement, and sustain inclusive integrative STEM programs in schools and districts. Emerging from our research (Geesa et al., 2020; Geesa et al., 2021; Rose et al., 2019), experiences, and teaching, we propose that nine domains of competency contribute to the development of an integrative STEM program. After an introductory section, each of the chapters examine these domains, which include: 1) mission and culture; 2) equity, diversity, and inclusion; 3) infrastructure and programming; 4) curriculum; 5) instruction; 6) extended learning; 7) professional learning; 8) assessment; and 9) evaluation (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Competencies of Educational Leadership in Integrative STEM

Each themed chapter identifies potential strategies, resources, and exemplars of integrative STEM practice in schools and districts. There are additional state and national certifications and awards for schools and districts that align well with integrative STEM that this book may help with.

The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) recognizes schools and districts that are committed to STEM educational programs that are equitable and inclusive for all students through STEM School Certification (IDOE, 2021). The IDOE website provides a rubric for schools to assess the robustness of their STEM programs and the online application process can be a school and/or district-wide collaboration. The IDOE is also dedicated to ensuring students gain employability skills throughout their education in four domains: mindsets, work ethic, learning strategies, and social and emotional skills (IDOE, 2019). The 32 standards within these domains can be incorporated within STEM and non-STEM disciplines. 

Another opportunity to think about integrative STEM at the organization-level is to pursue the U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School Award. Green Ribbon Schools provide evidence of 1) reducing environmental impact and costs; 2) improving the health and wellness of schools, students, and staff; and 3) providing effective environmental and sustainability education (DOE, 2021).  Educational leaders can support teachers and staff through interweaving environmentally-focused integrative STEM content and practices throughout their programming while also applying for the Green Ribbon School Award. 

Educational leaders work with educators, stakeholders, and community partners to prepare PK-12 students to experience success in higher education, careers, and civic opportunities. We hope that educational leaders will find Leadership in Integrative STEM Education to be a useful resource for initiating and sustaining a STEM-focused culture and supporting integrative STEM teaching practices. For more information about the book or leadership development and sustainability of STEM/STEAM programs, please contact us at rlgeesa@bsu.edu .


Geesa, R. L., Stith, K. M., & Rose, M. A. (2020). Preparing school and district leaders for success in developing and facilitating integrative STEM in higher education. Journal of Research on Leadership Education, 1-21. https://doi.org/10.1177/1942775120962148

Geesa, R. L., Stith, K. M., & Teague, G. M. (2021). Integrative STEM education and leadership for student success. In F. English (Ed.), The Palgrave Handbook of Educational Leadership and Management Discourse (pp. 1-20). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-39666-4_36-1

Indiana Department of Education. (2019). Employability skills. https://www.doe.in.gov/teaching-and-learning/employability-skills

Indiana Department of Education. (2021). STEM school certification. https://www.doe.in.gov/teaching-and-learning/stem-school-certification

Myers, A. P., & Berkowicz, J. (2015). The STEM shift: A guide for school leaders. Corwin. 

Rose, M. A., Geesa, R. L., & Stith, K. (2019). STEM leader excellence: A modified delphi study of critical skills, competencies, and qualities. Journal of Technology Education, 31(1), 42-62. https://doi.org/10.21061/jte.v31i1.a.3

U.S. Department of Education. (2021). U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools. https://www2.ed.gov/programs/green-ribbon-schools/index.html

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