Combining STEM with Arts: STEAM

The last decade there is a lot of discussion in EU about the importance of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in education. Schools, member states, and businesses in Europe and beyond are hoping that today’s STEM students can solve tomorrow’s global issues. A major investment has been made from European and national funds to find ways to increase students’ interest in scientific careers.

The high quality science education is one of the main pillars of the Responsible Research and Innovation framework that HORIZON 2020 programme aims to promote and facilitate. But there’s more to education than following a STEM career.  A lot more. That’s why a new term is gaining *ahem* steam. It’s called STEAM and it’s the idea of incorporating arts into a STEM-based curriculum.

In other words, let’s help students think more creatively and better understand the problems they’re already working to solve.

  • Training in the arts has been shown to improve creativity and innovation as well as students’ Deeper Learning (Fullan & Langworthy, 2013). Students learn to approach issues with a critical mind and a positive attitude towards problem solving.
  • Exposure to the arts enhances communication skills, which are essential tools for collaboration. It develops flexibility and adaptability. In such an approach the artificial barriers developed over years among subject areas could be eliminated and students will be given a broader context for solving reallife problems, which demands the development of analytical, interpretive and evaluative skills used in many subjectmatter areas.

This kind of learning of greater value to students and is increasingly considered as a high stake global educational priority (Fullan & Longworthy, 2014; American Institutes for Research, 2014).  This is based on the understanding that such competences are critical to be developed in order to build students’ readiness to meet the requirements of modern society and industry (Ark & Schneider, 2014).

On the other hand, teachers are faced with a real challenge. Having specialized in an academic discipline may cause frustration to them when it comes to creating interdisciplinary, crosscurricular activities. Additionally, today’s global challenges request high level scientific knowledge. Such activities demand considerable knowledge in many areas, which they may lack.