Catalyst Moonshot CoLaboratory Progress Update

Earlier this year, Beyond100K launched its Moonshot CoLaboratories (CoLabs), a program designed for network partners to join one another and Beyond100K to engage in collective learning, experimentation, and problem-solving bringing together the work of the last decade and setting the stage for the next. Over 90 partners  representing 66 organizations spanning the nation make up the Moonshot CoLaboratory . The CoLaboratory is composed of seven CoLabs or learning communities. The four Foundational CoLabs (Network Growth, DEIB in the Network, Moonshot Measurement, and Mobilizing the Map) are aimed at setting the stage for reaching the Beyond100K 2032 Moonshot goal of preparing 150,000 and retaining 150,000 STEM teachers with equity, representation, and belonging. Our three Catalyst CoLabs (Teacher Work Environment, Foundational STEM Teaching and Learning, and Equitable STEM Access) were formed with the purpose of keeping momentum and making progress on several ongoing shared goals from our first decade around equity in STEM education. At the same time, Catalysts CoLabs will also lead efforts to identify new iterations of our catalysts that reflect the challenges related to our new moonshot goal of fostering belonging or Black, Latinx, and Native American students and teachers. 

In order to keep these focus areas at the forefront of our work, the Catalyst CoLabs aim to to foster connections among partners who are working on projects and initiatives related to the three focus areas catalysts, create opportunities for partners to share and learn from one another, and create outputs that will anchor work connected to our future catalyst programming. After a virtual launch of the Moonshot CoLaboratory Program, members of each of the Catalyst CoLabs came together in person with members of the other four CoLabs and Beyond100K staff at our April launch event in San Diego, California, to meet in person, get to know one another, be inspired, and begin exploring what they wanted to focus on as a team within their focus area. CoLabs kicked off their work by engaging with their respective “Catalyst Hub,” or, virtual repositories chronicling the work and progress of the network on the three focus areas during the first decade (learn more about each focus area here: Work Environment Hub, Foundational Math Hub, and Equity in HS STEM Hub). The hubs include everything from reports put out by Beyond100K, past project team updates and resources created, and highlights about implementation grantee’s projects. 

To deepen each CoLab’s collective understanding of the network’s progress on their focus area during the first decade, each CoLab member was given time to individually explore the materials in the existing catalyst hub, and then were guided through a “What? So What? Now What?” protocol to help them reflect on what they noticed, identify what resonated and stood out to them about the topics and challenges being addressed, and what they would like to learn more about and build upon. The CoLabs then spent time identifying themes in what they shared, including areas of overlap or common denominators.

After receiving feedback from all participants at the Launch event on what to consider in moving forward via a whole-group gallery walk, each CoLab re-convened for a time of digging in and identifying a challenge on which they would like to collectively work to interrogate and analyze. Guided by the Problems with Problems protocol from Equity Meets Design, CoLab members worked through a series of prompts to turn their themes into a problem statement. They were encouraged to ask themselves questions like, “is our problem stated as the absence of a solution we wish to implement?” and “is our problem missing specific references to people?”

Over the past six months, Catalyst CoLab members have participated in a journey of identifying a problem statement, selecting a method for further exploring that topic, narrowing in on a solution connected to their problem, and presenting the output of their work at our annual Summit in November. The hope is that partners will eventually be able to incorporate and/or implement their work into their individual contexts with the support of network resources such as implementation grants. While all of the teams followed similar trajectories at and beyond the Launch, the sections that follow highlight the specific work of each of the three Catalyst CoLabs from April through July. 

Teacher Work Environment

The Work Environment CoLab spent the next several virtual work sessions after the San Diego launch working through the Problems with Problems protocol, continuing to interrogate their problem statement by asking questions like “does our problem implicitly or explicitly blame those experiencing the problem as having caused or being responsible for it?” and “does our problem treat a symptom as a root cause?” They ultimately landed on the following problem statement to explore collectively: Systems of power and privilege often create inequitable school work environments for teachers, especially Black, Latinx and indigenous teachers. This makes it difficult to attract and retain talent, particularly in STEM, which is highly specialized. 

Next, the group was tasked with getting more granular about how they might actually approach this challenge. They were guided to brainstorm “how might we…?” questions that were broad enough to include a wide range of solutions, but narrow enough to impose helpful boundaries. These questions also did not have to address the entire problem statement. Some of the over ten “how might we…?” questions the group brainstormed were:

  • How might we make schools more equitable work environments?
  • How might we identify which systems of power and privilege are the primary drivers behind inequitable work environments?
  • How might we counteract systems of privilege by distributing opportunities more equitably?
  • How might we identify, attract, and retain quality STEM teachers, especially Black, Latinx, and Indigenous teachers?
  • How might we support current recruitment and retention efforts in local and regional locations?

Ultimately, through consensus-building, the group decided to combine the last two statements above and landed on the following question to explore: How might we identify and support recruitment and retention efforts for Black, LatinX and Indigenous teachers in local and regional locations?

The next session was devoted to ideating specific solution criteria to be used as guidelines for their output, and then beginning to brainstorm possible solution pathways. Some of the criteria the group agreed upon, for example, were that their solution be able to be used across different contexts, have low barriers to entry, and not add burdens to teachers. Keeping these criteria top of mind, the CoLab members then brainstormed a list of over fifteen possible solutions to explore how they might identify and support teacher recruitment and retention efforts specifically for Black, LatinX, and Indigenous teachers. Some of their solutions included creating a map that would help various stakeholders identify existing recruitment and retention efforts, creating an infographic to easily and quickly share important information with those involved in recruitment and retention strategies, providing targeted outreach to school administrators to support them in recruitment and retention of Black, LatinX, and Native American teachers. 

Stay tuned for the next update in December to learn more about the Teacher Work Environment CoLab’s learning journey and Summit presentation!  

Foundational Math

By the end of the launch day in San Diego, the Foundational Math CoLab had landed on a problem statement to explore collectively: When institutional-centered outcomes are prioritized over student strengths, assets and needs, then experiences in pre-K-5 mathematics lack joy and authentic connections for many students, educators, and communities.

Like the Work Environment CoLab, to determine how to explore this problem, the group brainstormed over ten “how might we…?” questions that would capture the different ways they might explore this problem. Some of their “how might we…?” questions were:

  • How might we prioritize students strengths and not institutional outcomes?
  • How might we identify tools and supports that enable educators to identify students strengths, assets, and needs?
  • How might we develop curriculum that can be used to cultivate joy?
  • How might we help people understand why cultivating joy in math is important for students and communities?
  • How might we create opportunities for students to make connections between their communities and what they are learning (in the classroom, after school, etc.)?

Through consensus-building, they landed on exploring the following question: How might we cultivate strengths and create opportunities to make connections between communities and learning while making math joyful for students and teachers?

Again, like the Teacher Work Environment CoLab, the next few sessions were then devoted to ideating specific solution criteria to be used as guidelines for their output. They wanted, for example, to consider student voice versus external folx dictating what joyful math is, they wanted to consider asset-based pedagogies, and think about students who’ve been most harmed by the current way of doing things including Students of Color, students with special needs, and English language learners. Throughout the course of their discussions, the team utilized the Beyond100K research scout for support to pull out the key pieces about joy from the two Beyond100K reports (Doing the Math: Building a Foundation of Joyful and Authentic Math Learning for All Students and * Reigniting Joyful, Rigorous, and Equitable Foundational Math Learning (100Kin10)) on this focus area and find relevant work related to their problem statement. You can find the Foundational Math/STEM CoLab’s research boost here! 

Armed with this research and information, at this point, the team was ready to brainstorm possible solution pathways for their problem and “how might we…?” question! They brainstormed a list of over ten possible solutions to explore how they might create opportunities to make learning joyful for students and teachers. One of their possible solution paths was creating a framework for high-quality professional learning opportunities for teachers and parents that would support a common understanding of joyful mathematics. They also considered researching work that has been done to highlight how math is used in everyday life, and administering surveys to gather information on what is joyful to students. 

Stay tuned for the next update in December to learn more about the Foundational STEM Teaching and Learning CoLab’s learning journey and Summit presentation!  

Equity in High School STEM

Like the Foundational Math CoLab, by the end of the launch day in San Diego, the Equity in High School STEM CoLab landed on this problem statement to explore collectively: Equipping STEM teachers to support historically marginalized students is not a priority for many districts, teacher prep programs, and policymakers.

When tasked with brainstorming “how might we…?” questions, this group came up with several, including:

  • How might we ensure that equipping teachers is a priority?
  • How might we gather data about the problem?
  • How might we find exemplars of places that are doing this well?
  • How might we define what “equipping STEM teachers to support historically marginalized students” means?
  • How might we find out what type of resources districts need to be able to equip STEM teachers to support historically marginalized students?

They ultimately landed on exploring the following question: How might we better understand what the needs of historically marginalized students are in different communities?

Like the other CoLabs, the next few sessions were then devoted to ideating specific solution criteria to be used as guidelines for their output and brainstorming possible solution pathways.  They wanted to be sure, for example, their solution was connected to specific communities, that it would allow them to both explore deeply a specific community but also include different student demographics and identities, and would be specific to STEM. The CoLab then brainstormed several possible solutions to explore including conducting a literature review, interviewing BIPOC early college students pursuing STEM majors or BIPOC early in a STEM career in order to support them in better understanding the needs of historically marginalized students in STEM.

Stay tuned for the next update in December to learn more about the Equitable STEM Access CoLab’s learning journey and Summit presentation!  

Closing and Next Steps

Each of the three Catalyst CoLabs have been working together tirelessly on an output that addresses their “how might we…?” question and ultimately make progress toward the problem they identified back in April. The CoLabs have been meeting regularly amidst busy work schedules of their own and across all four time zones! If you are attending Summit in Philadelphia, you can learn more about what each CoLab has done by attending their presentations. We hope to see you there!