The role of science is far much acknowledged in the contemporary society. This is due to the highly desired development in technological innovation. Various academic research has elucidated the correlation between scientific growth and economic growth, leaving a clear evidence for the continuous growth of world economic powers such as USA and China (Wals and Corcoran 2012). The purpose of the literature review is to review the existing literature in regard to definition and analysis of STEM and STEAM concepts, the historical perspective of STEM education, the role of STEM in improving academic performance, current issues in STEM research, contested issues in STEM and STEAM, common vision, leadership, and change for implementation of educational opportunities in the future and finally successful introduction of STEAM model in school.
Definition and Analysis of STEM and STEAM concepts
STEM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. This model was established by the National Science Foundation about one and half decade ago. (Piro 2010, p.2). The creation of STEM model has seen creation and implementation of different instructional plans by educational leaders in an attempt to facilitate learning and teaching of STEM concepts in schools. The incorporation of the STEM content in all levels of school learning has presented a new challenge for both teachers and students that needs to be addressed (Park and Ko 2012, p.21). This will help both the educators and students to remain focused and ready for a modern and technologically oriented society. It will also prepare the students to rapidly expand careers in STEM associated fields.
According to Piro (2010, p.2), there is an enormous inconsistency in STEM definition as various scholars have raised concern on whether the four components of the term deserve equal attention. Particularly, STEM education curriculum varies significantly on the basis of education level. For instance, at level k-6, STEM curriculum appears synonymous with the science and math curriculum that requires all students in that level to cover (Park and Ko 2012, p.21). As such, STEM at the elementary level generally concentrates on performance and participation in math and science. As the curriculum become more specific, from the elementary level upwards, the STEM curriculum also becomes more specialized. For instance, various tracks through the required science and math curriculum for level 8-12 are availed to students. Moreover, students at this level are allowed to take elective subjects in computer science, social sciences and practical courses in both technology and engineering (Kim 2015, p.1321).
STEM education can be defined on the basis of two approaches. The first approach considers education as a derivative of STEM. As such, various disparate disciplines are lumped together based on the assumption that they contribute towards technological competitiveness, innovation and national prosperity (Park and Ko 2012, p.21). However, this approach does not address the controversial question of what qualifies to be classified in the STEM discipline. Secondly, STEM education can be defined on the basis of the conceptual and logical links across various STEM disciplines with an aim of treating STEM education as an entire field. This approach focuses on uniting pedagogical and curriculum aspects across various STEM fields. However, according to Kim (2015, p.1323), scholars can overcome controversies associated with STEM education definition by being more specific when carrying out empirical studies. This has been successively applied in majority of sociological studies that confine academic performance and degree attainment in a particular STEM field (Park and Ko 2012, p.21).
STEAM on the other hand is simply Science and Technology applied through Engineering and Arts, all centered in Mathematical components. In STEM education framework, Science and advanced Technology are considered as the foundation of what the modern world needs to proceed with, as conceptualized and established through engineering and Arts, basing everything on Mathematical elements. STEAM is a contextual learning framework that consists of inter-coordinated subjects (Piro 2010, p.2). The constituent subject support one another under a structure of how technology, science, engineering, the wide spectrum of Arts and mathematics. The aspect of Arts includes language, liberal, musical, aesthetics, manual and physical arts. STEMA offers an explanation of how the different components of education and life interact. As such, STEAM formally integrates arts into the existing STEM education structure (Kim 2015, p.1322).
According to Kim and Park (2012, p.120), STEAM has already been implemented in k-12, museums, college classes and in rehabilitation centers. It has a system for lesson plans indicating its adaptability and how it is benchmarked. As such, STEAM is designed in an adaptable way to allow for changes taking place in the rapidly evolving world. It allows learners and educators to understand the learning process contextually offering a living structure for the rapidly changing world. Addition of Arts in the STEM education offers the ability to share science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge through communication where language arts are used to impact, empower and in leaving a legacy. It includes a functional knowledge framework of physical and manual arts that address the ‘how to’ question. It also helps in understanding aspects relating to present and past aesthetics and cultures. Moreover, STEAM helps in comprehension of human nature, ethics and sociological developments (Ko, An and Park 2012, p. 110).
The Role of STEM in improving Academic performance.
Understanding the role played by STEM education requires a keen look at the sociological perspective of science and of education in relation to academic performance. For instance, science sociology is founded on the assumption that science is a unique and social institution. On the other hand, education sociology focuses on the importance of acquiring general knowledge as well as educational credentials as outcomes of familial, social and institutional influences (Kim 2015, p.1335).
To begin with, science oriented occupations are regarded as high profile with substantial personal incomes. Moreover, occupations based on science education come along with high social status to their incumbents (Kuenzi 2008). Additionally, scientific performance is mostly evaluated on a universalistic criteria. This differentiates science occupations from other occupations which are evaluated using a functionally irrelevant criteria such as race, gender, nationality or religious affiliations (Kim 2015, p.1338). Apparently, this makes STEM education more meritocratic or universalistic as compared to non-STEM education. This is because evaluation of the student achievement is more objective in STEM education as compared to non-STEM education. Moreover, STEM education allows personal social mobility, a factor that enables the socially disadvantaged individuals to excel through a criteria that is objectively measured and accepted by scientists and STEM educators. This accounts for the notable overrepresentation of the Asian American officers in science and engineering field during and after the Second World War (Kim and Park 2012, p.119).
Kuenzi (2008) states that the current educational reform climate has created an ever increasing demand for professional programs in development of science and mathematics globally. Most of the educational reforms require educators to have a deep understanding and knowledge of specialist subject and a good understanding of the most effective pedagogy to apply in teaching the subject. This calls for the need of STEM education that can prepare the educators to handle pertinent issues in their field of practice through scientific and technological innovations (Yakman 2010).
Current Issues in STEM research
Following the launch of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), researchers and educators have been extensively analyzing the most appropriate ways to improve teacher learning through pre-service learning programs or in-service career development programs, with an aim of enhancing the implementation of science, technology and engineering practices as provided by the NGSS (DeJarnette 2012, p. 77). Research in STEM education is a wide area characterized by unclear parameters. The disparity in what constitutes to STEM education has been as wide as the definition of the term even, since the concept was created. Based on the fact that the clear definition of STEM is still debatable, there apparently exists the need to carry out more research on this area (Wilson et al. 2012, p. 149). According to Kilgour et al. (2016, p.9), faculty members working on different projects were unable to conceptualize or provide similar definition of STEM education. There is therefore a clear need to establish a standard system to evaluate the different definitions and conceptualizations created by different STEM research projects. Moreover, all education faculties across the country should be made aware of the different definition and conceptualizations (Wilson et al. 2012, p. 151). In addition to the different conceptualizations and definitions relating to STEM education, there is also an apparent need to focus on the motivation associated with STEM education strategies. There is also a clear need to establish how various approaches affect the classroom (DeJarnette 2012, p. 78).
Recently, there are various disturbing trend in the American education sector, in association with STEM. Over the past decade, the number of students pursuing science, engineering and mathematics degrees in institutions of higher learning have remained constant despite the growing population in the US (DeJarnette 2012, p.78). Moreover, even the students who register for science and engineering courses are reported to lack the prerequisite knowledge to pursue the courses. This suggests that the students are less prepared to transition from the high school into the universities. It also suggests that the students are not adequately challenged by their previous learning environment to master advanced academic content in the institutions of higher learning (Hulleman and Harackiewicz 2009).
All these concerns indicate that the STEM educating has loopholes that needs to be addressed if the country is to continue being at the top of the world in regard to science, technology and engineering innovation and development. Additionally, there has been a rising concern with the quality of training on the educators (Cole and Espinoza 2008, p.288). For instance, the recruiters have raised alarm on the rising cases of job candidates with insufficient skills in science, technology and mathematics and the inability to solve common job related problems. Moreover, 2010 job statistics also indicated that the STEM related job opportunities are continuously growing, implying that the number of qualified candidates for the STEM related jobs are less (DeJarnette 2012, p.78).
Historical Development of STEM Education
For close a decade and half, history has shaped the modern state of affairs in relation to STEM education in the US. The revolution of the STEM education in America dates back in 1944 when the then president of the USA Franklin Delano Wrote to Vannevar Bush, the head of the Scientific Research and development office in US, inquiring about the appropriate programming that could be utilized in cultivating a scientific aptitude among the students in USA. In response, Vannevar Bush wrote a report entitled Science-The Endless Frontier, where he discussed the need to provide the students with a distinctively designed education system that would play an important role in enhancing scientific innovation among the students. The report also emphasized on the need for the learners to develop the interest in science and technology disciplines at the institutions of higher learning (Pinnell et al. 2013, p.28). In 1950, Truman, the US president approved the National Science Foundation Act. This Act led to inception of the NSF, a program that has continues to fund educational research in the US, especially in the disciplines of engineering, mathematics, computer science, social sciences and technology (Brown 2012, p.7).
A decade later, after the launch of Sputnik by the Soviet Union, the US was prompted to invest in scientific and technological developments. As such, there arose a concerted effort that witnessed identification and recruitment of the best students into an education program with the aim of creating a new generation of science, technology and engineering entrepreneurs (Brown et al. 2011, p.5). This led to extraordinary developments and innovation in the field of science and engineering. During the 197os, the USA witnessed a tremendous drop in scientific and engineering progress, something that made the country to lose its competitive edge in the world market (Brown et al. 2011, p.6). However, national report entitled A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Education Reform addressed the issue by pointing out the need for the country to upgrade the national education system. Among the areas that require most concentration was the country’s status as an intellectual, innovative and economic powerhouse. Some of the performance indicators that were used to support this claim was the 40 points drop in SAT mathematics score from 1963 to 1980, an important concern related to STEM education. It also highlighted that were notable decline 17 year students in the national exams from 1969 to 1977. Moreover, the report also reported that the number remedial classes at public colleges had increased by 72% from 1975 to 198. Further the report argued that the educational system in the US at that time produced functionally illiterate students based on international science and technology standards (Yaşar et al. 2006, p.208).
In addition to the 1983 report, ‘A Nation at Rik’ the National Academics Committee on Science, Engineering and Public Policy produced two more reports addressing the education issue in YS over the turn of the century. The first report entitled, Rising above the Gathering storm, suggested that erosion of the founding blocks in the field of Engineering, science and Public Policy was a serious economic concern on the US since other countries around the globe were investing heavily and progressing well in such areas. As such, the report pointed out that failure to take corrective measures may place the country at a lower competitive edge in the world market. The reported recommended the country to build more appropriate knowledge-oriented resources, especially in the fields of science and technology (Merrill and Daugherty 2009). The second report, Rising above the Gathering Storm Revisited was a status update of the improvements made since the release of the of the 2006 report. However, only dismal improvements had been effected between the two reports as the US ability to compete internationally had worsened over the five years (Merrill and Daugherty 2010). According to Nathan et al. (2011, p.410), the report further called for the country to supply engineers and scientists with the ability to create immense innovations in the field of technology, science, and engineering.
Contested Issues in STEAM and STEM
According to Kilgour et al. (2016, p.9), some supporters of STEM education model disapprove of adding A into the model. Critics of STEAM claim that there is need to separate the arts and STEM (sciences) to get rid of anything that may take the concentration away from the study of STEM education subjects. This claim is further supported by the fact that US is witnessing a notable drop in the STEM areas, hence the need to pay more attention to them (Boy 2013, p3). Therefore, most of the government funds is being directed into educational grants and scholarships tailored to improve STEM related disciplines. The proponents of STEM education argue that invention and innovation are important factors that influence the growth of economy in the contemporary world. These skills can be better gained through an education system that concentrates on development of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics subjects (Jolly 2014). Moreover, STEM learning approaches are inquiry-centered. This differentiates STEM from the traditional learning approaches, which were typically based on classroom lecture (Madden et al. 2013, p. 543).
STEM offers the students the opportunity to collaborate in problem solving through a question and answer technique integrated with research (Daugherty 2013, p.10). Moreover, STEM education offers the opportunity for educators to incorporate teamwork into instructions. The system is also appealing to students and teachers as it enables the students to participate in a classroom and creates an insight to practice the skills related to STEM (Jolly 2014). All these arguments refute the claim to integrate arts into STEM. However, inclusion of Arts into the STEM education model is not a matter of spending less time on science, technology and engineering classes. According to Kilgour et al. (2016, p.9), the proponents of STEAM claim that the addition of ARTS into STEM is aimed at creating a spark on the students’ creativeness and thinking and helping them become more innovative in STEM subjects. Moreover, it is considered as a way of enabling the students to apply the design and creative thinking skills to the STEM projects, hence enabling them to imagine a myriad of ways they will use later in job or life. This would encourage innovativeness and economic development in the country and make America more competitive than any other country in the world, in regard of STEM areas (Daugherty 2013, p.10). The argument for separation of STEM and ARTS totally misses the point.
As DeJarnette (2012, p. 78) accentuates, the ideal of integrating ARTS into STEM is not about meant to create more artists or dilute STEM, but is meant to develop STEM students with the ability to think critically and creatively while remaining engaged in their learning. Rather than concentrating on rote memorization and mastery of the STEM topics, STEAM utilizes project-based strategy of teaching with the aim of holistically enhancing the skills of students in design thinking, creativity tech literacy, problem solving and collaboration (Taljaard 2016, p47). Moreover, STEAM is people oriented, not subject-centric as it is the case with STEM. For instance, the student is relieved of the pressure to become an engineer since they can equally become a digital artist, a designer, coder, scientist or even an engineer at a go. There has been a heated debate in the community of learning, about the importance to integrate Arts learning methods into the STEM education, leading into transformation of STEM education to STEAM education (Cole and Espinoza 2008, p.286).
Common Vision, Leadership, and Change for implementation of educational opportunities in the future
Whether a teacher is implementing a new learning method, an administrative team is establishing an academic improvement campaign, or a district superintendent is restructuring the district, a clear vision remains a preliminary for any change that can is necessary to close the gap in school performance (Beering 2010). Vision can be defined in a variety of ways. However, all definitions of vision in relation to leadership consists of a psychological image, an aspects of organizational direction or goal and a future orientation. Vision guides an institution by articulating what it wishes to achieve. As such, vision serves as a blueprint or rather a signpost that offers direction to all people in the organization of where they are required to move to within a period of time. As a signpost, vision plays a compelling role in motivating, inspiring and engaging people to attain the future desired state (Garrison and Vaughan 2013, p. 25).
There are two definitions of change that are explicitly important to educational leaders. These include the first and second order changes. The first order changes commonly deal with academic improvements in an education context. These changes are more connected to the program vision, for instance a change that seeks to adopt a new learning or reading program requires a program vision. On the other hand, second order changes refer to the type of changes e that need reconceptualization or restructuring of an institution’s roles, relationships, rules and responsibilities. According to Burke (2013), such changes require a system vision. As such, the leader is required to visualize the whole new set of learning expectations, accountability structurers, and relationships and how they would function in harmony as a coherent system as opposed to visualizing just how the new practice or program would work. A good example of a change that requires system vision in a school is the restructuring of the school’s schedule into a one-hour class periods. Whether the vision commences with a personal concept by the leader or a team’s consensual picture of the school or a district image of the future state, it is significant to have a sense of vision ownership. It is worth noting that it is the presence of the leader’s personal vision, shared with organizational members that differentiate transformational leaders from the rest of management officials in an organization (Waddock and Lozano 2013, p. 266).
Teacher’s learning, professional and Leadership Development
The term professional learning also referred to as professional development is defined as the activities and processes designed to improve the professional skills, knowledge and attitudes of teachers with the aim of making them able to improve the learning process of the students for high academic performance (Harmon and Smith 2012). It is therefore an intentional, systematic and ongoing process. Professional learning and professional development are closely intertwined and interdepended. There are several opportunities and situations for educators to learn and develop. These range from educational policy changes and carefully designed information, disseminated to teachers to inform them of pertinent issues in their profession. Additionally, there are several learning opportunities to learn in institutions of higher learning, where teachers can enroll and add skills relevant in improving the learning and teaching practice in schools (Timperley et al. 2008).
Most of the teachers around the globe have diverse learning and development needs.
However, Demographic descriptions of age structures and teaching contexts provide only a limited information in regard to these learning needs (Harmon and Smith 2012). Newly recruited teachers to the teaching profession, for instance, apparently have learning and development needs different from the needs of their more experienced counterparts. One of the challenges in identifying diverse problems within different groups involved in professional development is that the effect on individuals is often eroded in reports summarizing teacher reactions and average data. Yet various in-depth investigations that have taken diversity as the most important theme have reported that the same professional growth and development experience can lead to different outcomes for educators (Timperley et al. 2008).
Collaboration, Communication, Critical and Creative thinking
The 21st century has witnessed unlimited information dissemination to students through learning. Due to the modern advancement in technology, students are now able to access as much information as they can from the internet powered resources such as online libraries and other digital materials (Guyotte et al. 2014, p.13). However, students lack adequate skills to utilize this abundant information. As such, there is clear need for teachers to instill the students with relevant up to date skills on how they can benefit from the unlimited information for them to be adequately prepared to face the pertinent issues in the world and stand out in the competitive employment market. Therefore, students must learn and develop four important competencies, including critical thinking, collaboration, creative thinking and communication.
First, creativity among the teachers and the students include the conception of bright original ideas, innovation and the ability to take good risks in implementation of STEM projects. Students may demonstrate their creativity in a myriad of ways. (Ravitz et al. 2012). According to Guyotte et al. (2014, p.117), creative students are able to evaluate various ideas from different angles, thinking in wide perspectives and applying the already learnt concepts in various useful ways. Second, critical thinking is one of the most admired learning attributes for students in the 21st century. This requires students to have the ability to have in-depth thinking as they collect and analyze data in scientific investigations. Third, for students and teachers to succeed as researcher in the contemporary world, they must engage in meaningful collaboration. This is because different individuals are gifted with different abilities, hence the need to share information and brainstorm in establishing effective ways of solving complex problems in the world. Forth, improved learning and teaching outcomes can only be attained if both the teachers and students are able to communicate, both in class and with the external stakeholder. According to Ravitz et al. (2012), communication has advanced with advancement in technology. As a result, students should make use of effective communication by demonstrating the ability to express their thoughts, opinions and emotions to different types of audiences and for various purposes. Effective communication is essential in education and research since it is used in informing, persuading and entertaining (Guyotte et al. 2014, p.19).
Role of Administrators Leadership in facilitating educational implementations
Effective leadership serves as the key intermediary between the school administration, classroom, and the entire education system and plays an essential role in ensuring that efficient management of the school is attained (Harmon and Smith 2012). Effective leadership can lead to improvement in the overall student learning process by improving the learning and teaching climate and conditions. The school leadership is also essential in connecting school to the external environment. It also provides a system interface, a bridge between the internal academic goals and the external goals. As such, the school leadership is important in shaping the academic reforms and restructuring educational policy for improved performance ant the institutional and also at the national levels. Due to the rising need for countries to adapt to the needs of the schools to the contemporary needs of the society, the approach to school leadership has experienced a continuing and dynamic change (Beatriz, Deborah and Hunter 2008).
In most of the countries, schools have become more autonomous in the decision making process. Moreover, accountability requirements and quality standards in those countries have also become more centralized with a demand to have the schools adopt research-oriented approaches to learning and teaching. This has intensified and expanded the responsibilities and roles of the school leaders. Romanowski and Nasser (2012) accentuates that the increased accountability and autonomy in management of schools has made the role of leadership even more important than before. As a result, there is clear need for policy makers in the education sector to adopt the leadership policy by addressing pertinent issues that have arisen in the past few decades (Beatriz, Deborah and Hunter 2008). However, according to Harmon and Smith (2012), there is a disturbing concern since the turn of the 21st century, most of the secondary school principals in different parts of the world have not yet adopted the new leadership approach, hence are not adequately prepared to satisfactorily face the pertinent issues facing the education industry.
Introducing Successful STEAM school models
Pinnell et al. (2013, p.28) states that schools are integrating art with STEM with an aim of enforcing the ability of students to develop creativity and flexibility required in problem solving and exploration of variety of ideas for the benefit of discovering and communicating well with others in job and life settings. The introduction of STEAM in schools enable learners to understand the true meaning of design as applied in technology, science and engineering. According to Christensen, Horn and Staker (2013), youths and young adults from low socioeconomic class provided with high arts levels of study reported far higher academic performance as compared to their counterparts who were not exposed to high levels of arts study. Additionally, these youths reported a higher rate of enrollment in colleges and other institutions of higher learning. According to Kim and Park (2012, p.116), integration of arts into STEM can lead to long-term retention of classroom content across different disciplines. It can also result to deeper student engagement and emotional involvement in the learning process. Moreover, it also prepares the learners to effectively apply the learnt principles across different disciplines. Since STEAM revolution began, American schools have responded by developing innovative programs that are meant to inspire a generation of inventors and designers.
Educators are now collaborating on different projects and finding for new and better ways to solve prevalent problems. On the other hand, students are now utilizing their imaginations in creation of new ideas, testing them, receiving feedback from their peers, making the necessary improvements and corrections and developing the idea into the final design (Kim and Park 2012, p.115). The STEAM approach varies from one school to another depending on the integration appetite and purpose borne by the education management or administration in a certain district. For instance, some schools readily incorporate the arts into STEM subjects by developing an annual curriculum to accommodate the arts in every STEM subject (Becker and Epstein 1982, p.90).
Eleven Important Tips for introducing successful STEAM models in schools.
Firstly, for a school that seeks to introduce a successful STEAM school model, it must come up with a realistic and clear vision in relation to the SYEAM goals (Brown 2012, p.6).. As such, all the school stakeholders must come into consensus on the set goals. This requires the school to create a timeline on what activity should be accomplished on what time span. Substantial planning id needed for districts, which want to implement STEAM programs in all schools and across all lessons. Secondly, there is clear need for the schools to creatively find and manage the program implementation funds. Some of the funding sources include funding campaigns such as community rallies, applying for grants and donations from non-governmental organizations. Thirdly, it also significant to have all the teachers are adequately trained to comprehend the STEAM concept (Brown 2012, p.7).
It is worth noting that STEAM does not merely refer to addition of arts into the science and technology projects but rather making STEM more creative and visual. This calls for the call of the schools to ensure that their teachers are up to date with the most current trends in all STEAM subjects, hence preparing them to be more innovative and inventive. Forth, the teachers should be given enough time to collaborate. According to Guyotte et al. (2014, p.13). The introduction of a successful STEAM project needs the educators to collaborate in brainstorming for better problem solving approaches. Just as the learners require enough time to learn a concept, the teachers also need time to share ideas and insights towards the STEAM concepts. Five, the school management should find for the program ‘pollinators’ and ensure that they adequately empowered to set the movement in motion. This will make the implementation of the STEAM project successful since it the ‘pollinators’ will build and share the enthusiasm with other people in the school. Six, the school should seek to bring the external intellectual resources from the parents into the school. This is because a good number of parents to the students are experts in the STEAM disciplines. The school can therefore organize and rally for regular STEM conferences as a way of making awareness for a successful STEAM model in schools (Johnson et al 2014).
Seven, the school should instill a continuous growth mindset among all students. This will instill confidence among the students, assuring them of their ability to succeed in all STEAM projects and also instilling confidence among teachers against hurdles they face in testing out new learning approaches. Eight, STEAM projects should be built around the real issues that need to be addressed. It is apparent to note that students are more motivated to invest in research about something that will lead to a turnaround for a big challenge facing the world, rather than anything that only benefits an individual entity. Nine, there is apparent need for the schools to welcome a space where the learners can admire to invent (Brown 2012, p.7).
It is important for the school to establish a devoted and creative makerspace. Ten, There is need to celebrate and recognize inventors of STEAM models and the projects they invent. This comes as a good way of motivating the inventors and making the community to better comprehend the value of STEAM learning model. Eleven, the school should always remain true to the dynamic nature of the STEAM education movement. The constituent subjects in STEAM education model are by nature dynamic and keep on disrupting the ancient siloed disciplines. The eleven tips for successful introduction of a STEAM model encapsulate in the ability of the hosting school to remain persistent based on the disruptive nature of the STEAM education movement. The idea of incorporating arts into sciences disrupts the traditional learning and teaching approaches. However, the disruption may have a positive impact, leading to success in schools (Brown 2012, p.7).
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