Day in and day out, educators around the world teach students about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). STEM educators work at all levels of instruction, from preschools to universities. These teachers and instructors are skilled at creating effective STEM lessons, sometimes drawing on materials from organizations that provide free STEM lesson plans. Among other supportive resources for educators, several nationwide groups offer conferences that focus on best practices in teaching the STEM disciplines. Read on to learn more about some of these popular national conferences.
In the area of science education, one popular conference is hosted by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). In existence since 1944 and boasting a membership of 50,000 people, the NSTA is one of the world’s largest professional groups devoted to promoting science education. The NSTA lists the following practices as its guiding principles: model excellence; champion science literacy; value scientific excellence; embrace diversity, equity, and respect; enhance teaching and learning through research; collaborate with partners; and exemplify a dynamic professional organization.
To enact these principles, the association offers a national conference, several regional conferences, and an expo on a yearly basis. The NSTA estimates that more than 30,000 people attend these conferences annually. Workshops and presentations are offered for educators of all grade levels, from elementary school through higher education. Additionally, exhibitors are on hand to showcase materials and other products useful in teaching science.
In April 2019, the national conference was held in St. Louis, Missouri. The conference featured a keynote address offered by Scott Kelly, a retired NASA astronaut and retired US Navy captain, who discussed the year he spent in space. Additionally, in July 2019, the NSTA will host its annual STEM Forum and Expo, which focuses on providing teaching resources to educators, in San Francisco, California. This year’s STEM Forum and Expo will feature keynote speaker Dr. Bernard A. Harris Jr., a former NASA astronaut and CEO of the National Math and Science Initiative. Dr. Harris is also known for being the first African American to complete a spacewalk.
Technology and Engineering
In the areas of technology and engineering education, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) offers an annual conference. The ITEEA is an organization dedicated to promoting technical and engineering literacy, and it aims to advance the professional development of educators in these fields. Established in 1939 with a focus on industrial arts, the association has changed over time to keep pace with technological advancements. Today, the organization claims more than 35,000 members in secondary education, higher education, and industry.
ITEEA’s annual conference recently marked its 81st anniversary. Held in Kansas City, Missouri, in March 2019, the conference theme was “Technology and Engineering Bring STEM to Life.” The conference featured four strands of presentations, including best practice in classroom instruction, research to support technology and engineering education, partnerships to strengthen technology and engineering education, and preparation for preservice teachers.
A number of prominent speakers addressed the audience. Dr. Jeff Weld, STEM education policy consultant to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, gave an address titled “The US Federal STEM Education Strategic Plan: North Star.” Another speaker was Travis McCready, president and CEO of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, who gave an address titled “The Importance of Experiential Learning in STEM Education.”
In mathematics education, one popular conference is hosted by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM). NCTM was established in 1920 and is now among the largest mathematics education organizations in the world. The mission statement of the organization emphasizes its advocacy for high quality mathematics teaching and learning. Its strategic framework explains that NCTM aims to ensure the best possible mathematics education practices by providing resources, promoting equity, engaging with members, and raising awareness of the importance of mathematics education.
The NCTM holds several conferences each year, including a national research conference, an annual meeting, and an assortment of regional conferences. The 2019 research conference and annual meeting were held in early April in San Diego, California. The conference and meeting featured presentations, workshops, and demonstrations. Major topics of discussion included assessment, student empowerment, professionalism, advocacy, equity, and inclusive classrooms. Speakers also focused on using reading, writing, speaking, and listening to enhance mathematics education.
Three featured speakers headlined the 2019 meeting. Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings, professor emerita in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is known for her work in critical race theory as it applies to education. Dr. Talithia Williams, Associate Dean for Research and Experiential Learning and an associate professor at Harvey Mudd College, is known for making complex mathematical concepts understandable to the non-mathematician. The final featured speaker was José Vilson, the founder of EduColor and an activist whose work focuses on race, class, and education.