STEAM education helps students solve future problemsSiobhan Treacy | April 27, 2021
A study from the University of Cambridge, University of Suffolk and University of Edinburgh argues that by teaching subjects in an interconnected manner, the students would be more prepared to solve future world problems. The team argues that art, sciences, math and technology subjects should be taught together with a focus on real-world problems that are rooted in the student's experience.
The researchers were inspired by the way Da Vinci worked across disciplinary boundaries and used a variety of disciplines in his designs to advance knowledge and solve problems. Children should be encouraged to think in the same way because their future depends on it. The future that today’s children will live in will have unique challenges that will require new problem-solving approaches.
The study presents evidence from two projects where pupils benefit from the blurred subject way of teaching. In the first project, South African teens from disadvantaged settings were tasked with creating “math artwork”. This project increased the student’s familiarity with key math principles and allowed students to understand more about how math is relevant in their lives. Students created art that showed a link between math and their world. Analysis of 113 submissions showed that students successfully applied math principles in their creations and engaged deeply with the meaning of math at a level not seen in conventional lessons.
In the second project, primary school students in Aberdeen, Scotland planned a garden and grew food on their school’s campus. Participants showed a deeper understanding of food security, environmental protection, food production and natural resource management issues. Students were introduced to ethical challenges they may not have otherwise studied, such as how to produce enough food in a limited space.
This study supports the growing science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics (STEAM) education movement. STEM education has been criticized for ignoring the arts, but STEAM picks up that slack by integrating the arts into science and math education. When integrating STEAM into curriculum, teachers and leadership would have to make collective decisions and share practices on how to engage pupils with cross-curricular themes. They would also have to integrate imaginative use for space and resources with closer links between schools and their communities so students can continue their education outside of the classroom. This kind of education would also require reviewing how student learning is measured.
The study was published in Curriculum Perspective.