4 Characteristics of the STEAM Approach to Teaching
“Children learn best when they are actively engaged in something that has personal meaning to them – be it a poem, a sandcastle or a computer program.” -Seymour Papert
Are you curious about implementing a STEAM approach in your classroom but not sure where to start? The Teacher’s Academy has gathered 4 important features of the STEAM approach so teachers can get a quick understanding of what it is all about:
- Learning with Purpose and Meaning
My mother (a retired nurse) wears a shirt that says, “Another day has gone by and I have not used Algebra.” My father (a mathematician) tries, in vain, to convince her that she uses Algebra every day. The disconnect between learning skills and applying skills, has plagued our education system for years. Frankly, students do not understand how the skills they are learning in school, will be applied to real world situations. In other words, “Why is this important?” Many students assume they really won’t ever use math, when in fact, they use it every day.
The STEAM approach to learning attempts to change the outlook of a boring school day, to a new vision of a meaningful, purposeful education that will be used to thrive in an unpredictable future. Unfortunately, in many schools there is a disconnect between skills being taught, and how those skills apply to the real world. If your students have asked the question, “When will I ever use this?” (mine have) then they are not experiencing meaningful, purposeful learning. The STEAM approach allows students to understand that the skills they are learning must be applied to solve real world problems.
Teachers are the MOST important aspect of the STEAM classroom. Teachers are no longer seen as the source for finding knowledge and answers, but as a guide through a learning process. When we (teachers) provide all the answers, we rob our students of self-guided learning and discovery experiences that increase those higher-level thinking skills!
Instead of having a defined process for finding a correct answer, the STEAM approach expects students to explore, struggle, persevere and collaborate to figure out different ways of finding a variety of solutions. It is the responsibility of the teacher to create an effective learning environment and develop challenging activities that stimulate higher-level thinking.
Oh my gosh!! Doesn’t THAT sound fun? We deserve a little fun & creativity in our jobs!
- Design STEAM lessons that support learning multiple subject areas, connects learning to the real world and allows for student choice.
- Provide multiple means of assessment, ex: portfolios, notebooks, end products, observations of students working through learning processes.
- Create a safe environment for students to contribute to discussions, try ideas, fail and retry.
- Model a growth mindset, perseverance and a rigorous work ethic.
- Coach, guide and support students when things get tough.
- Empower and promote student’s ideas.
- Collaborate with peers to create authentic learning activities and continue to grow professionally.
- Have fun and continue learning along with students!
- Student-Centered Learning
Student-centered learning begins with a safe environment for students to learn from mistakes, and time to rethink or retest a failed experiment. Student choice, working collaboratively and reflection are also essential aspects of student-centered learning.
Student-centered learning allows students to:
- Choose projects
- Learn from mistakes
- Listen to feedback
- Acknowledge different perspectives
- Develop a growth mindset
- Reflect on the process
- Diversity is Key
Minorities and women continue to be under represented in STEAM careers for a variety reasons: lack of funding, a distorted perception of the type of person who becomes an engineer, and the fear of tasks being too difficult. The future actually depends upon a diverse population of creative thinkers and problem-solvers to address the issues from different viewpoints. Teachers have the power to encourage all their students to explore, test, fail and muscle through challenges of STEAM activities in the safety of the classroom. Students need the experience of collaborating on different projects with a variety of people, so they are prepared to contribute ideas in a diverse workplace.
Exposure to different cultures, beliefs, values and ideas will allow students to appreciate different points of view, and empathize with different types of people. This is important because it will foster more effective design projects for future generations. For example, the design of the automotive air-bag comes from a very narrow point of view. Air bags in our cars can save the life of an adult male, but hurt an adult woman and possibly kill a child. The design idea was good, but unrepresented by an important part of the driving population.
Rethinking your approach to teaching is going to take time, effort and tenacity to muscle through failed attempts. I promise, it will be worth it! Interested in learning more and earning professional development hours? Visit our website to view the full course: STEAM
Click here to view our entire course catalog.
PA teachers looking for online professional development can check their Act 48 Hours on the PA PERMS DOE website. Not teaching in PA but still looking for online professional development for teachers? Check your state requirements for more information.
The Teacher’s Academy is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU. States accepting IACET CEUS: MA, MI, AZ, NH, SC, GA, SD, VT.
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