Professional Services Discusses "LASER"

Last week SSEC's Professional Services Division held our first Journal Club meeting. The Journal Club serves as an internal Professional Learning Community (PLC) to keep the Professional Services staff up to date with current research in the areas of professional development, educational policy, standards, and scientific literacy, just to name a few! As this was our first meeting, we decided to start at the beginning with the SSEC's seminal text Science for All Children. This text was published in 1997 and outlines our model for systemic science education reform. This model, which has been around nearly as long as the SSEC, has become known as "LASER" (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform).

The most interesting thing that came out of our group discussion was our collective rediscovering of how relevant this text still is. While Science for All Children was written 16 years ago and there have been significant changes to our educational system since then, the core of the LASER model is still applicable today. The LASER model consists of five elements that are individually important for the success of the education reform effort.

Image of the Systemic Reform Model that displays the five pillars of the model. 

As the diagram above depicts, if any one element does not exist, the entire system will fall apart. It is important to note that all of the elements come together around a shared mission and vision. Research and best practices continuously inform our knowledge of each of these five elements, so I don't mean to imply that this model has not evolved over 16 years. The core idea is to be thoughtful about addressing each area in order to build a systemic science program. While our focus is science- and STEM-related education, these elements apply to the success of programs in any content area. Additionally, science is a subject matter that brings together multiple competencies--not just technology, engineering, and math--but also literacy, history, and art.

An implicit piece that underlies all of the five elements in the model is leadership. True, one of the elements of the model is "Administrative Support," and that is a crucial layer of leadership. After all, without buy-in from district- and school-based administrators, there will be no new initiative to begin with. But, in order to truly have a new initiative actually be successful, leaders need to exist at all levels. This means that teachers--the people who work most closely with students--need to be leaders too! It is crucial that we build on the knowledge and expertise of teachers to inform decisions made for the improvement of student education. Engaging teachers as leaders not only empowers teachers but also builds capacity in a region so that the program will be sustainable for years to come.

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