STEM School Roadmap

The STEM School Roadmap is an interactive visual that demonstrates how the components that comprise the 8 STEM school Elements work together to realize student success. Click the icons in the upper-right corner to explore where the components that contribute to each Element reside on the roadmap to student success. Understanding how components work together, and where the process may break down, can help practitioners see why their school may or may not be meeting its goals.

Read more about the 8 Elements of inclusive STEM high schools on the Elements Findings page.

What is the STEM School Roadmap?

We developed the STEM School Roadmap to illustrate how STEM school components may work together to realize STEM school goals. This Roadmap enables you to see where components from each of the 8 Elements lie in the path to student success.

The Roadmap further organizes the components into two main groups – behaviors and structures. Behaviors are enacted by members of the school community including school leaders, teachers, students, and partners. Thus, the Roadmap further organizes them into the following groups: 1) School Leader behaviors; 2). Foundational Staff Inputs; 3) Teacher instructional behaviors; 4) Partner & Family instructional behaviors; 5) All Staff school community behaviors; 6) All Staff/Partner spread/external community behaviors; and 7) Student instruction& school community behaviors. Note that Teacher Instructional and Partner/Informal Learning & Family Instructional behaviors on the roadmap are indicated at left simply by “Instructional Behaviors.” You will see the symbol (( )) represented on the roadmap. It’s there to remind you that the behaviors happen in in the context of structures.

When you click on an Element, you will see one or more sets of behaviors (and their accompanying structures) illuminate, indicating that these behaviors and structures help realize that Element’s key educational goals.

For example, when clicking the Element Problem-Based Learning (which is green), the Roadmap highlights Teacher Instructional Behaviors, Partner/Informal Learning & Family Instructional Behaviors, and Student Instruction & School Community Behaviors in green. You can click on the boxes to the left of the Roadmap image to see the specific components in each of these groups that contribute to achieving the goals of problem- and project-based learning approaches.

What’s the difference between Structures and Behaviors, and why is this important?

Some STEM schools have an “Advisory” class. This is a structure in which many different behaviors can happen. For example, “Advisory” is one of the structures in which the behavior “teacher differentiation of instruction based on learning needs” or “teacher facilitation of student interest” can happen. To see this on the Roadmap, click on “Personalization of Learning” (yellow) and then click on the boxes on the left-hand side.

Exploring the STEM School Roadmap

The Roadmap was designed to enable you to explore the components that comprise each of the 8 STEM school Elements, and to see where these components lie in the path to student success. Below, we describe the steps along this path.

The Roadmap organizes the components into two main groups – behaviors and structures. Behaviors are enacted by members of the school community including school leaders, teachers, students, and partners. You will see the symbol (( )) represented on the roadmap. It’s there to remind you that the behaviors happen in in the context of structures.

Setting the Stage for Success: Left Side of the Roadmap

Starting at the far left of the roadmap are School Leader Behaviors and Foundational Staff Inputs. These “set the stage for success.” School Leader Behaviors can influence Foundational Staff Inputs and vice versa. The behaviors in these two groups set the stage for and promote the behaviors at the next point in the roadmap.

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The Process for Getting There: Middle of the Roadmap

In the middle of the roadmap, you’ll notice Teacher Instructional Behaviors and Partner/Informal Learning & Family Instructional Behaviors. These are heavily focused on instruction and learning in and out of the classroom and include components such as “teachers facilitating cognitively demanding work” (Teacher Instructional Behavior) and “external partners facilitating career readiness experiences” (Partner Instructional Behavior). Note that Teacher Instructional and Partner/ Informal Learning & Family Instructional Behaviors on the roadmap are indicated at left simply by “Instructional Behaviors.”

Below these are All Staff Community Behaviors, which are not directly related to classroom instruction, but rather facilitate community within the school (e.g. emphasizing a code of behavior and values).

In addition to these behaviors there are All Staff Partners Spread External Community Behaviors. These behaviors engage and support the external community or other STEM schools (e.g. teachers work to spread STEM practices to new STEM schools).

These teacher, staff, and partner behaviors influence student behaviors.

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Students’ Turn: Right Side of the Roadmap

The final stop on the Roadmap before “Outcomes” is Student Instruction and School Community Behaviors. These behaviors include students cooperating and working with one another as teams, engaging in cognitively demanding work, and making interdisciplinary connections. In addition to the behaviors that occur during instruction and learning, they may also participate in service learning to give back to the community or get involved in extracurricular activities. Teachers and staff facilitate many of the things that students do in school, and the flow of the Roadmap highlights this. For example, students may participate in more substantive group work due to the fact that the teacher facilitates and encourages this behavior.

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Outcomes: The Ultimate Measure of Success

All of the components are intended to work together to achieve the desired outcomes of a STEM school. Intermediate Student Outcomes include student attitudes such as mathematics enjoyment or confidence in doing schoolwork. These attitudes can then help foster long-term successes - the types of outcomes we hear most about. Long-term Student Outcomes include tangible student achievement (grades, test scores) as well as college-going rates or pursuit of STEM careers. Finally, schools may also have a set of outcomes that are not student-focused, which we call Spread and External Community Outcomes. These may include the successful implementation of STEM practices across the state or giving back to the community.

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What else matters? Factors that affect the pathway

In addition to the components that schools enact to achieve success, there are outside factors that can impact what happens in the school. We have identified various categories of such factors ranging from teacher or school leader traits (e.g. a mathematics teacher’s confidence in his or her ability to teach calculus) to characteristics of the school or district, to district, state, or national policies (e.g. The Common Core for Mathematics). The STEM school leaders we have spoken to have identified “critical” factors – conditions that are external to the STEM school, but necessary for them to achieve their goals.

We call these Essential Factors, and they can influence any stop on the Roadmap. For example, many of our schools indicated that teacher personality traits, such as believing that all students can learn, are imperative to the school’s success. The Essential Factors are described more on the 8 Elements Findings page.

Explore the STEM School Roadmap and consider how your school’s attributes, strategies, and behaviors may be important landmarks on the road to your school’s success.

Where did this come from?

The Roadmap emerged from four years of research with over 25 inclusive STEM high schools across the nation. This research took a “ground-up” approach in that rather than beginning with a definition of what we thought a STEM school should be, we asked the STEM schools to tell us what they are.

Outlier interviewed individuals in each STEM school to identify and describe the most important components, or building blocks, that contribute to the success of their school. From these interviews, we identified 78 components. As described above, these components include structures, such as specified time set aside for Advisory or cross-departmental collaboration, and behaviors, such as students participating in early college activities or teachers facilitating a positive social and emotional learning environment.

Once we identified the STEM school components, we organized them into the eight STEM school Elements and began to hypothesize about how they might interact to produce the intended outcomes. Outcomes include intermediate outcomes (e.g. student attitudes about STEM), and long-term outcomes (e.g. student achievement, student enrollment in STEM college courses, pursuit of STEM careers).

The Roadmap illustrates how we think the STEM school components interact to create student outcomes. The S3 study collects data to better understand the implementation of these essential components and how they work together to achieve success.

How can I use the Roadmap?

If you are a practitioner at a non-STEM school who is interested in bringing STEM to your school or district…

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As someone new to STEM, you might be asking yourself “What is a STEM school anyway?” After exploring the 8 Elements and their components here, this Roadmap can help you understand how all of those pieces work together to achieve student success. Remember that every school doesn’t enact every one of these components, so be sure to think about the pieces that might be important to your STEM vision.

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If you are a practitioner at a new or emerging STEM school…

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Leaders at emerging STEM schools have found this Roadmap to be useful as they consider their current STEM schools versus the sort of STEM school they hope to be. A first step for new/emerging STEM school leaders is to outline the current school model and how it functions to realize its goals. The next step, then, is to identify places where there is room for strengthening the pathways towards student success.

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If you are a practitioner at an established STEM school…

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Leaders in established STEM schools are likely more confident in their school models after years of refinement and tweaking. Thus, established STEM schools use the Roadmap to refine the ways they describe their school models to others. Additionally, like new or emerging STEM schools, established STEM schools can use the Roadmap to consider how the school’s current model components work together to realize the STEM school’s goals, and how these pathways could be strengthened.

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