Enhance learning by turning STEM into STEAM

For over a decade, STEM programmes have been widely discussed in schools and by education thought leaders. But recently, a new movement has taken over. The addition of an “A” – the move from STEM to STEAM – and the suggestion that the arts should be incorporated into the cross-curricular learning model, has caused controversy.

While critics argue that art doesn’t fit with the other disciplines showcased in STEAM i.e. the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), the pioneers of this movement will tell you that that’s exactly the point!

Advocates of STEAM, from parents to teachers to potential employees, will tell you that even when implementing STEM lessons, key areas of child development as missed. The STEM curriculum was created to address the skills gap in the UK; however, the initiative doesn’t address how students harness their creativity and become innovators.

Preparing students for the world of work means we need to ensure they’re able to:

  1. Apply their learnings
  2. Create
  3. Demonstrate ingenuity

The addition of the arts to STEM, turning it into STEAM, means that these elements; which are critical for students to prepare, thrive and succeed; aren’t missed. By incorporating the practice of art, elements and design principles into STEM lessons you’ll create the perfect starting point to guide student inquiry, dialogue and critical thinking.

What’s the actual value of adding the arts?

By transforming STEM into STEAM and embracing it, you’ll help develop students who:

  • Take thoughtful risks
  • Engage in experiential learning
  • Persist with problem solving
  • Embrace collaboration
  • Work through the creative process

I truly believe that STEAM students are the innovators, educators, leaders and learners of the 21st Century.

Ensuring integrity while you STEAM ahead

STEAM is exciting, but it can be tricky to navigate if your academic organisation doesn’t truly understand what STEAM means, both in terms of your strategy and its implementation. Just like STEM learning, your students can’t reach their full potential with STEAM unless you’ve considered how and why it matters to your learning environment.

Focus on these key areas:

  • STEAM is an integrated approach to learning. Because of this, you’ll need to create an intended and clear connection between: standards, assessments, lesson planning and implementation
  • True STEAM experiences involve two or more of the core subjects to be taught and assessed through each other
  • The STEAM approach focuses on process-based learning, inquiry and collaboration
  • When adopting a STEAM initiative, it’s essential that you leverage and utilise the integrity of the arts themselves
Robotics lesson in school
STEAM should still incorporate technical elements of engineering and robotics and maths, but can enhance these disciplines through the creativity of design practices.

In order to achieve success in these key areas, you should consider a variety of factors, including:

  • Collaborative planning – Include a cross-section of your teachers from each subject you’re blending when planning your integrated approach and implementation strategy
  • Timetabling – You may need to adjust your timetable and even consider having bigger classes with multiple teachers (who are subject matter experts in different disciplines) to accommodate this new way of teaching and learning
  • Developing and investing in people – Provide continued professional development (CPD) for all your staff, in STEAM practices and principles for greater adoption in as many subject areas as possible
  • Standardising and assessing – You’ll benefit from creating STEAM schema-mapping for the curriculum. It’ll ensure you’ve covered all the areas you need to and help influence your design assessment process. To succeed you must make sure you align and get to the core of your standards and assessments
  • Implementing – Ensure seamless lesson implementation, processes and strategies so that your educators, support staff, parents and governors understand and support what you’re trying to achieve

This approach to learning is certainly not an easy task, but the benefits to your students and entire school community can be huge. Students and teachers engaged in STEAM make more real-life connections. Your learning environment can then develop from the place where people go to learn, to the place that taught them how to learn. This is what we expect from today’s workforce and will be an even greater expectation for the work ready employees of the future.

We should strive to always be learning, growing and experimenting. We can harness skills learned through the teaching of the arts to encourage growth and social-emotional connections.

Use STEAM learning to help build the foundations for the innovators of tomorrow… today!

Learn more, or get the conversation started

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Things you need to know

  1. Source: http://educationcloset.com/steam/what-is-steam/ 
  2. Source: https://www.stem.org.uk/
  3. Source: https://www.stem.org.uk/resources/elibrary/resource/267373/stem-ambassadors-making-impact
  4. Source: https://www.stem.org.uk/stem-ambassadors/schools-and-colleges
  5. Source: http://stemtosteam.org/
  6. Source: http://www.careerswales.com/en/spotlight-on-stem/
  7. Source: https://www.wisecampaign.org.uk/resources/2017/02/higher-education-statistics-2016
  8. Source: https://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/09/02/stem-vs-steam-093/2/
  9. Source: https://www.eschoolnews.com/2014/04/04/steam-education-apps-257/
  10. Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/student-life/Studies/stem-vs-steam-how-the-sciences-and-arts-are-coming-together-to-drive-innovation-a7047936.html
  11. Source: http://www.edudemic.com/stem-vs-steam-why-the-a-makes-all-the-difference/
  12. Source: http://www.steampowerafterschool.org/steam-facts-and-stats/

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