Implementing STEAM in education means developing new techniques to keep students engaged through every project and class. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the demand for cognitive skills, such as creativity, critical thinking, etc. will grow by 19% by 2030. For institutions, the fundamental challenge is incorporating STEAM efficiently into the current curriculum and building on the idea that different STEAM components can converge to help institutions improve student success.
The acronym STEM was introduced in 2001 at the National Scientific Foundation (NSF). Each component in STEM was thought to bring about a well-rounded education.
In short, STEM allows students to prepare for the future. Exposing students to STEM early on allows them to explore concepts and encourages knowledge application. This increases their interest in STEM-related jobs; hence, they are likely to pursue them.
Additionally, companies need to stay updated and relevant with new and improved technological innovations, which led to the amalgamation of STEM into the educational frameworks for the youth.
STEM focuses on scientific and technological innovations, which have become increasingly important in the 21st century. It gives students the chance to develop their capabilities.
However, with all the benefits STEM brings to the table, it comes with some drawbacks.
With all the quality education STEM provides, men predominantly dominate this field. According to the US Census Bureau, 2020 — women make up only 34% of the STEM workforce.
Another downside of STEM is that it comes at the cost of losing out on other subject matter. A student proficient in AI and ML without any knowledge of philosophy and ethics would be more likely to create biased algorithms that can affect the lives of millions.
A new and improved framework was needed to fill these and several other gaps in STEM.
Recognizing the flaws within the STEM framework, students and educators felt the need for an improved skill-building curriculum so they could better succeed and help the economy grow. The influence of the Arts became apparent, especially when promoted in the K12 atmosphere.
A new term emerged that changed how people looked at educational frameworks — STEAM. The 'A' refers to the Arts stream. This minor change in the acronym played a crucial role in how institutions would prepare students for the future.
STEM focuses on hard scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical skills to create new concepts. On the other hand, STEAM focuses on hard and soft skills to solve problems. STEAM tools— such as fine art imagery, imagination, perspective, etc. — deepen one’s understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math.
The goal of the STEAM educational framework is to base teaching on the natural ways of learning and customize it according to each student’s needs. This educational model combines the traditional academic subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math to create a more holistic curriculum.
STEAM is a modern approach that focuses on the learning process and the result. To increase innovation and learning opportunities, here are a few things institutes can incorporate in the classroom to build creativity and critical and logical thinking in students.
It is not the sole responsibility of one instructor to impart knowledge of STEAM teaching. At its core, STEAM is about incorporating different fields into one; the same can be applied to using different teachers' knowledge to build one goal — building students' thinking.
If different teachers are involved in creating projects with students, they can build a strong bond and understand each student's capabilities. This would give them the opportunity to curate their lectures according to students' interests.
Research shows that students make significant progress in AI-driven STEAM courses, shedding light on the feasibility and importance of incorporating AI with other disciplines. The study also expands upon how Computational Thinking (CT) is an essential skill in STEAM (CT is the foundation for AI technology, emphasizing problem-solving through deep learning and cognitive computing concepts).
AI-STEAM courses emphasize blending the topics of different subject areas that allow students to improve their practical knowledge by participating in real-life projects. If integrated into STEAM right, these courses can enhance students' interdisciplinary knowledge and refine their grasp on related AI applications.
Hands-on practice combined with STEAM learning allows students to understand AI concepts and applications better. In addition, using Machine Learning concepts in a classroom allows them to apply their technical knowledge to different domains, even as they change and evolve.
STEAM projects build students' skills by encouraging them to collaborate with one another while also emphasizing upon their potential. Creating STEAM projects that allow students to work on two or three skills at a time gives them a higher chance of mastering these capabilities.
For example, if a project calls for ‘thinking outside the box,’ students will need to develop their creative and analytical brains to come up with new solutions. Through teamwork, they can learn from other students and take valuable initiatives.
Students should also be given individual projects to know how to work alone and focus on their weak points by failing and learning.
These projects are all about trial and error, which means students can fail; this will help them understand why they failed and how to do better.
Students love a challenge. It gives them confidence in their abilities and thoughts processes. However, each student should be challenged based on their potential.
It's important to create STEAM projects that allow students to play to their strengths and build on their weaknesses. If a project isn't engaging or challenging enough, they will not learn. If a project is too complex to solve, it will de-motivate them. Hence, a project that poses the right challenge will keep the student engaged.
These projects are crucial as they are the building blocks to learning and understanding the real world. They help students choose STEAM-related fields in the future.
The goal of incorporating STEAM into the education system is to help students solve real-world challenges in the classroom. Students can build their problem-solving skills only when faced with a difficult situation.
Projects that are realistic enough will give them the confidence needed to think and develop solutions later on in their career. They will build and learn new skills, like researching, interviewing, testing, pitching ideas, etc.
Above all, group projects will allow them to collaborate with other students. Since recruiters look for people with collaborative skills, starting early will help them tremendously.
Dr. Kristin Cook, Associate Dean of Bellarmine’s Annsley Frazier Thornton School of Education, explains — “Incorporating the ‘A’ in STEAM brings in personal expression, empathy, meaning-making, and the purpose of what you’re learning.”
STEM opens many opportunities for students. However, not all of them can benefit from this framework.
Plus, even though there is a strong demand for a STEM workforce, recruiters face many challenges hiring STEM students. Companies are limited in their ability to train and retain an effective and sustainable workforce while also promoting innovation. The STEAM framework solves this problem.
Adding Arts to the curriculum can enhance the use of logical and creative skills in students, greatly improving their creative problem-solving capabilities. Students pursuing STEAM courses are more enthused about collaboration and flexibility. They build better mental connections and acquire a well-rounded education before stepping into the job industry.
STEAM is not replacing STEM. It is expanding the combination of artistic and humanistic concepts and enhancing it for all students.
Research shows that the STEAM-based curriculum improves student scientific creativity. The study conducted by Ozkan and Topsakal (2021) concluded that ‘STEAM designed curriculum would boost scientific creativity in students’.
At its core, STEAM strengthens STEM learning. It builds a good foundation for students by allowing them to work on their critical thinking skills and helps them see the intersection between Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.
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