A New Era for NSTA Conventions: A Message from the NSTA President

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Padilla

For more than 53 years, NSTA conventions have been a hallmark of the association. Our first convention was held in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1952 and consisted of 617 teacher participants and a handful of presentations. We've visited scores of cities since then and our average yearly convention attendance is now 20,000! I attribute this success to NSTA's ability to continually change in order to deliver what's needed most by science teachers across the country. Today we are again experiencing great change.

NSTA has unveiled a new name-and an enriched format-for its time-honored conventions. The NSTA national and area conventions will now be called NSTA Conferences on Science Education. The change reflects the growth and evolution of conventions into deeper, more meaningful professional development experiences for teachers. We will debut the new name at our 54th National Conference on Science Education, which takes place April 6-9, 2006, in Anaheim, California, and is expected to draw more than 13,000 attendees.

Why did we make this change? Over the years we have been working to enhance our conventions to provide educators with professional development opportunities that are more expertly sequenced, focused, and extended over a longer period of time. This new approach is what research tells us is effective and can translate into meaningful learning experiences for teachers. As a result, we felt we needed a new name to convey how conventions provide this rich experience for teachers and address more of today's important topics. There is a culture of professionalism reflected in conferences where attendees are, among other things, earning course credit or continuing educational units.

Let me highlight a few of the exciting new changes that have helped transform NSTA conventions into rich, professional development conferences.

Professional Development Institutes

In recent years, NSTA has infused its conventions with state-of-the-art professional development practices and methods to give science educators extended opportunities to grow professionally. National conferences now feature Professional Development Institutes (PDIs), which are focused, content-based learning events that explore topics in greater depth. First presented in 2004, they begin with a full-day session prior to an NSTA national conference, then continue with a focused four-day itinerary of related conference sessions. The PDIs have addressed important topics, including inquiry, the role of literacy in developing student understanding of science, assessment, and the analysis of instructional materials aligned to standards and state frameworks. Well-known professional development providers that have presented sessions include BSCS Center for Professional Development; Education Development Center, Inc. …