STEAM AS AN APPROACH - NOT A CURRICULUM
At SuperSci, we have often been asked whether our learning solutions are based on a STEAM Curriculum. Although the question may seem straightforward and one could expect a simple answer, we must first understand that a curriculum is just the academic content and lessons taught in a school or educational institution or a specific course or program.
A STEAM Curriculum is one that includes Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Math and must include tools for collaborative planning among teachers from different disciplines,
timetables adjusted to accommodate new teaching and learning styles, appropriate STEAM Model training strategies for teaching staff, learning activities based on processes to encourage active student inquiry and collaboration, and the integration and leveraging of the arts.
However, the curriculum is just one component of the STEAM Education approach. It does guide the process, of course, but other components are needed to create and implement an effective STEAM teaching/learning approach.
First and foremost, a STEAM approach requires integrated learning activities designed to connect curricular standards and assessment strategies. Furthermore, two or more standards from the core STEAM subjects in the curriculum should be implemented in such a way that these subjects may be taught and assessed in and through each other. Also, as mentioned before, process-based learning is fundamental to generate student inquiry and collaborative learning, all this, of course, using the integration of the arts. Now then, to effectively achieve a STEAM learning approach in the classroom, digital tools such as those offered by SuperSci must also be used to engage learners in exciting, fun, and meaningful learning scenarios, to allow a more creative approach to different subjects, and to
enable students to develop creative, critical, and analytical skills to effectively interiorize the subject matter being learned and develop the desired cognitive and pragmatic skills.
Now that we better understand what a STEAM curriculum is and how based on such curriculum we can create and implement a STEAM teaching/learning approach, we can use several strategies to go from a traditional model to a STEAM one.
Since the STEAM approach is based on guided exploratory student-centered learning where interaction and discovery take place actively, its implementation is not only based on lessons,
units, or subject matter, but also on embracing a new way of teaching and learning and a common language that must be spoken across all classrooms.
Educational institutions can gradually begin to adopt the STEAM approach with the help of learning solutions such as those offered by SuperSci. The process can start with department heads working collaboratively to create effective teaching/learning practices based on the STEAM approach that will work for their institution. Once the department heads have mastered the process, they can train and lead the rest of the teaching staff to spread the model.
Jointly, administrative staff must provide adequate support for the teaching staff in the form of time and resources. Opportunities must be provided for teachers to co-plan curriculum and encourage frequent revisions, sometimes daily if needed, to ensure that the model implementation is effective. Also, school principals, coordinators, and so on can strive to create community partnerships with cultural institutions, for example, to create and
expand their STEAM network.
When it comes to the classroom, the set paradigm of teachers standing in front of the classroom and telling students what they need to know and do should shift to student-centered learning environments. Learners will need to be encouraged to ponder upon real-world problems, investigate the issues, and work collaboratively to find solutions using knowledge and skills from different subjects and disciplines. This will result in apparent louder
and more active learning environments, which may make more traditional educators feel awkward and even uncomfortable, but that will empower learners to focus on more relatable issues and actively engage them in their own learning processes.
Evaluation policies need to be adjusted as well. Instead of workshops and tests focusing on memorization and raw knowledge, authentic assessments should be carried out based on processes, collaboration, and effectiveness in finding the solution to different problems by applying knowledge and skills from subjects across the curriculum. Most importantly, we need to understand that the journey is just as important as the destination itself, meaning that the process is just as paramount as a result.
As teachers, we can start by designing fun and accessible activities based on real problems relatable to our students' realities. We should always celebrate and repeat successful activities, learn from mistakes, and always keep on planning new projects.
Also, we shouldn't be afraid to take thoughtful risks. Diving into a STEAM approach requires creativity and innovation to create more student-centered learning activities. This, in turn, will allow students to become more engaged with the course materials. This way, integrating different disciplines into collaborative learning and effective learning tools results in more engaging, effective, and fun learning environments. Of course, we will discover many benefits of student engagement, including improved scores in standardized tests, increased participation in community or volunteering projects, and a more positive approach to education overall.
As we implement a STEAM approach, we should mainly strive to help students become good at solving problems. As they gain new technical and artistic skills, they learn to carry out tasks and
face challenges with a more positive attitude. The STEAM approach is designed to provide students with diverse skills to face the challenges that life may throw their way effectively. Also, this approach helps acquire the ability to think outside the box, which is a huge part of developing problem-solving skills. Divergent thinking is fundamental in effective problem-solving because it helps students tackle tasks and take on challenges from different angles that would otherwise not be considered. This can only be achieved through
collaborative problem-solving learning activities and by developing a naturally inquisitive and curious nature about the world around us.
It should be noted as well that there is more common ground between subjects such as the arts and science than one would imagine. Thus, it is only through the exploration of the common
aspects among the different subjects that the STEAM approach can help learners develop an understanding of how things work and how the knowledge of those different subjects will help them acquire relatable and applicable skills.
In essence, the main benefit of a STEAM learning approach is that it's cross-cutting and provides diverse ways of looking for solutions for the same problem. What this means is that students with different learning styles and rhythms will have the same opportunities to successfully overcome challenges and solve problems both in their academic and personal arenas. Additionally, a STEAM approach encourages learners to work on group projects as part of a team which empowers collaborative learning, and teamwork, as we know,
is a vital skill to have in the real world. After all, a famous phrase captures the essence of this concept; "Teamwork makes the dream work." Thus, going back the original question, the learning solutions offered by SuperSci not only have strong bases on a STEAM curriculum framework but are also designed and conceived to
facilitate the implementation of an effective STEAM teaching/learning approach, which is how we need to perceive STEAM, as we have come to understand that that this is the type of educational approach our learners need to acquire the knowledge and skillset to thrive and
succeed in the reality of a XXI Century globalized world.