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Improving STEM Education With STEAM

Recent years have seen a rise in STEM instruction, which is an issue familiar to any educator working on an online doctorate in education. Educators and policymakers are increasingly trying to help students prepare for higher education and the workplace by emphasizing the STEM subjects: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The rise in STEM teaching, however, has inspired an argument from arts educators that arts instruction is equally important, so some educators have adopted STEAM as a more inclusive acronym.

Why the Arts?

STEM teaching is grounded in the application of mathematics, science and engineering. Artistic expression is a natural way for students to apply what they are learning in their STEM classes. Creativity often goes underemphasized in the science and math fields, but to make progress in these fields and in our culture as a whole, creativity and innovation are essential.

In the American education system, teachers and administrators have historically only attempted to reach particular groups of students with the STEM subjects. Students who show little aptitude for math and science do not receive additional chances to explore their abilities in ways that address their learning needs. Through STEAM approaches, applied arts instruction makes math, science and engineering accessible to a broader range of students.

Ways to Integrate the Arts Into STEM

Educators do not have to be trained artists to incorporate the arts into their STEM teaching. Teachers can encourage multiple methods of expression, whether through technology, performance art, design or creative writing. They can allow students to shape their own learning experiences by giving them a say in how they express themselves.

Teachers should also emphasize collaboration in group projects as part of their STEM curricula. Collaboration begins in the brainstorming and planning phases of a project, but it can also carry into completing it. Whether students are working on graphic designs together or helping each other with the construction of a model they have engineered, they can apply their mathematic and scientific knowledge to their artistic and creative abilities.

Moving from STEM to STEAM is a natural progression for educators who wish to ground their students' learning in the application of science, technology, math and engineering curricula. Artistic expression makes the STEM subjects more accessible to the wider student population, and it helps students increase brain activity. Graduate students in the field of education can explore the field of STEAM education more in depth by earning an online doctorate in education.

Learn about the University of South Carolina's online Ed.D. in Curriculum & Instruction program.


Edutopia: 7 Ways to Turn STEM into STEAM

Education Week: STEM vs. STEAM: Do the Arts Belong?

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