Updated: Apr 11
In a typical middle school in South Carolina a STEM to STEAM process has been very successful, according to research. A significant rise in students’ scores occurred within the second year of the reform, after years of average scores .
This school was not following a specific curriculum, but has been inspired by the call to improve STEM scores. The learning materials have been developed within the school. The staff has dived into a creative process, embracing Studio Thinking. This is the kind of flexible thinking an artist practices while creating. It means being ready to make mistakes, and to learn from them. This creative approach inspired a creative learning environment for the students, igniting meaningful learning. The result was better scores in standardized tests.
Here are some tips for such a successful reform, based on this research and others (see references).
The key for a successful school reform is communication. We first need to establish a creative, responsive and productive communication between all stakeholders:
Between government, schools, teachers and communities – the autonomy of schools in taking upon themselves a change and being able to mold it with the engagement of teachers is fruitful.
Among communities of teachers – It’s important to link art and STEM teachers. Their mutual feedback is constructive. Art teachers’ practices can help STEM and language arts teachers overcome the difficulty of transforming from frontal instruction to experiential and participative learning.
Between experts that lead teacher training and teachers – a conference offering expert advice is remote from the daily teaching practices. Teacher training should offer feedback for teachers for practices in the classroom.
Between principals and teachers - Embracing creativity helps principals be a source of inspiration.
With the students – When students participate in experiential active learning, they also provide feedback to the teachers. Teachers can then improve their practices and respond better to individual needs. Students enjoy being able to apply their learning in projects that are interdisciplinary and real-life oriented, rather than in tests.
People are afraid of creative education. It seems like this school’s approach to the change helped safely cross the bridge. I think creativity is a value. And we need these today, in our secular eclectic world. A reform that focuses solely on better grades is not enough. The value of creativity centered the staff around a cause, and helped the reform succeed. In addition to the better learning creativity stimulated, it seems like the staff was working together creating something new.
If you’re interested in STEAM learning materials you’re most welcome to visit my blog.
I’ll be illustrating two STEAM lesson ideas in The Arts Integration and STEAM Online Conference. My live session will be for middle and high school educators, and the breakout session for elementary teachers. Learn more about this conference on the event page of my blog.
You're most invited to visit my Amazon author page to learn more my STEAM books for k-12 and my guidebook for becoming a 21st century educator.
Eisner, W. Elliot. (1992), Educational Reform and the Ecology of Schooling, Teachers College Record 93(4) pp. 610-627.
Grundy, S. (2002). Big Change Questions: Is Large-Scale Educational Reform Possible? Journal of Educational Change 3, pp. 55-62.
Hunter-Doniger, T. & Sydow L. (2016). A Journey from STEM to STEAM: A Middle School Case Study, The Clearing House: A Journal of Educational Strategies, Issues and Ideas 89:4-5, pp. 159-166.
Levin, B. & Wiens, J. (2003). There is Another Way: A Different Approach to Education Reform, Phi Delta Kappan 84(9), pp. 658-664.