15 Jan STEAM in the classroom: challenges and suggestions
Teachers are tasked with developing students who are capable of solving increasingly complex problems on their own initiative in a modern, increasingly complex world. STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) has emerged as a potentially useful tool in addressing this challenge in recent years. STEAM is a combination of the now-familiar acronym « STEM » and arts integration. STEAM, on the other hand, is frequently poorly defined and implemented to varying degrees. Furthermore, STEAM can be difficult to implement, with teachers reporting difficulties with cross-disciplinary collaboration, increased workload, and understanding STEAM integration, among other things.
STEAM curricula and activities implemented in classrooms have been shown to increase students’ STEM content knowledge, intent to continue studying or participating in STEAM, and more positive attitudes toward STEAM. These findings are promising. Students who participate in STEAM initiatives at summer camps, museums, international programs, and after-school programs have similar learning benefits. STEAM is being used in a variety of settings all over the world to improve student outcomes in STEAM fields.
STEAM is being taught in order to promote a new approach to learning. STEAM is a curriculum that teaches students in an integrated, interdisciplinary approach to learning. The basic idea is to remove any distinctions between the subjects and imagine them being taught as a single unit.
A modern didactic concept that is attempted with the connection of logical mathematics (STEM courses) and creative thinking (arts and crafts courses) is the holistic approach to teaching subjects and the direct connection with the students’ everyday lives (arts). By taking a holistic approach to knowledge, it responds to the student’s multifaceted social reality, behaviors, and experiences. STEAM has a number of advantages:
- Fosters creativity: STEM and creativity can lead to new ideas and innovations. Recent advances in artificial intelligence and digital learning would not be possible without creativity.
- Resilience: Students learn in a safe environment where they can fail and try again. STEM education emphasizes the value of failure as a learning tool, allowing students to accept mistakes as part of the process.
- Supports innovation: Many of the recent technological advances would not have been possible without a little risk-taking and experimentation. Asking questions like “How can you do this?” inspires students to experiment and take risks in the classroom.
- Increases teamwork: Students of varying abilities can work in teams to solve problems, collect data, write reports, and present.
- Employs knowledge of various subjects: Various practical skills are needed to solve problems. This encourages students to utilize their knowledge and to develop new skills and understandings.
- Improved use of technology: Technology and innovation are taught through STEAM education. So, students will be ready to embrace new technologies instead of being hesitant or fearful.
- Problem-solving skills: STEΑM education teaches students to think critically to solve problems. Students learn to analyze problems and devise solutions.
Introducing STEAM in classroom
The manner in which subjects are taught has a significant impact on students’ achievement and ability to learn when it comes to attitudes toward subjects and motivation to study.
The most common teaching methods in a STEAM class are inquiry-based learning (IBL) and problem-based learning (PBL). Both of these strategies produce students who are engaged in the learning process. Students learn to develop their creativity, critical thinking, reflection, problem solving, analysis, synthesis, and communication skills, which are among the most important abilities that a twenty-first-century citizen must develop in order to satisfactorily meet the modern world’s constantly changing demands. Students also learn how to effectively communicate.
So, how can we introduce STEAM in a class of students?
Teachers should at first consider student needs. Teachers must respect students’ needs and support them during the STEAM educational activities. Listening to their needs, showing consideration, and accepting students’ feedback leads to an emotional connection between teacher and students, then between the whole class. We learn better when we feel like we are part of a team that is seeking solutions.
Exploiting students’ interests encourages participation and learning, but it also inspires interest in other areas. The teacher should encourage students to share or discover their interests so they can engage in STEAM activities meaningfully and creatively. Activities that motivate students, connect or derive from prior knowledge, and have a practical application or connection in real life have a special meaning and lead to quality learning opportunities.
Finally, using students’ prior knowledge is critical to relate new knowledge to prior knowledge and to create connections and correlations that concern their daily lives, interests, and scientific fields they try to approach.
Training the trainers
Practitioners face similar challenges interpreting and implementing STEAM in their classrooms as scholars. Teachers may interpret STEAM as a series of activities and tasks rather than a holistic approach to learning. The inclusion of multiple disciplines in STEAM education challenges cross-disciplinary collaboration. Teachers report difficulty arranging time to plan collaboratively or even independently relevant activities. Student collaboration on STEAM projects is often encouraged, which can be difficult for teachers to facilitate. STEAM typically incorporates challenging instructional practices like problem, project, or inquiry-based learning that require teachers to shift from direct instruction to a facilitator role supporting student-led exploration.
Due to student collaboration, the iterative nature of STEAM projects, and the inclusion of multiple disciplines, teachers have in addition difficulty determining authentic assessment strategies for students. STEAM Education and STEAM professional development programs can increase teachers’ enthusiasm for STEAM in the classroom and enjoyment of teaching STEAM lessons. The classroom environment and teachers’ pedagogical discontentment can be improved by intensive STEAM interventions.
To become a STEAM teacher, someone needs to have the following qualities:
- Interdisciplinary knowledge on various topics: A STEAM teacher must have specialized skills and knowledge of the subject matter. In most cases, this means they have a degree in a subject and specific interests in alternative fields or have previously worked in a STEAM field.
- Advanced communication skills: It is not enough for someone to be an expert in a field; they also need to be able to communicate complex ideas to students who are unfamiliar with the concepts which are being taught.
- Organizational abilities: Teachers must be organized in order to keep up with the demands of the classroom, such as creating lesson plans, marking work, tracking progress, and organizing tests and experiments. Creating organized lesson plans, especially in STEΑM, will greatly benefit students when covering difficult concepts.
- Persistence and tolerance: All teachers require patience because they deal with a large number of people at once, many of whom are children. They must patiently explain things when someone does not understand and especially when they have to deal with new and complex activities which require various skills and knowledge.
To support teachers, we need to provide short- or long-term trainings and university courses which would allow them to think beyond a specific textbook. Teachers will only become lifelong STEAM advocates if we show them that STEAM subjects matter outside of the classroom. Teaching math, science, and engineering from a single textbook does not work. Teachers must be prepared to apply the material, whether it is an extra science experiment or time in a makerspace. To develop a generation of innovative STEM leaders, educators must be more creative.
Further, investments should be made in continuing education and in non-formal training activities. We need to educate teachers on the latest STEAM knowledge, practices and examples if we want them to teach it. School districts, universities and other organizations should organize or pay for STEAM teachers’ continuing education. This is the simplest way to ensure everyone is on the same page regarding STEAM education. Preparing our teachers to integrate STEAM activities takes longer than other disciplines. Colleges with education programs and local school districts must all work together to promote deeper content knowledge. Teaching future innovators requires a well-educated teacher.
In the previous sections we briefly introduced some of the advantages of STEAM education and we discussed what should be taken into account when teachers design STEAM activities. Students should be encouraged to explore their interests and skills and work in teams. Teachers need to learn to work outside their usual approaches and to act as STEAM facilitators in the classroom. Specific characteristics are needed and special programs are needed to support teachers. In the STEAMBUILDERS Erasmus+ project (2020-1-FR01-KA201-080668) we aim to develop materials which will facilitate the integration of STEAM into the classroom. By providing step-by-step instructions on how to create scale replicas of historical artefacts and by making available appropriate pedagogical sequences acting as paradigms of integrating STEAM in classroom, we try to support the work of teachers.
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This article has been written by 5th High School of Agrinio