reposted from the STEAM journal discussion on Linked In
robert hoffman feels awkward about the acronyming also
and talks about "Communication, Creative, Cultural, and Social Arts
"STEM to STEAM"? How about "CCCSA"?
Robert HoffmannDirector at National Education Association, r
As a STEM educator, retired from decades as a technical college
instructor, I certainly support the several initiatives for developing
integrated and cross-connected topics among the four disciplines. My
classes were developed using a "systems approach" that gave a holistic
view to the fields, then described the particular components and their
functions in producing the desired output. Compared to the traditional
"silo" courses that stand apart from one another (leaving the student
to connect the facts and concepts), the systems view encourages
problem-solving, critical thinking, and "higher-order thinking/ depth
of knowledge (HOT/DOK)".
Making connections across the four STEM areas is relatively easy,
since all deal with understanding and manipulating the external world
for human purposes. They are all reality-based in that the
observations and results must exist in some way outside the embodied
mind, and thus have similar "habits of mind", such as the scientific
method of inquiry.
Putting the "Arts into STEM = STEAM", then, is a struggle for me since
the starting point with the Humanities is within the person, not in
the world. In what ways, for example, do the Arts utilize empirical
methods of investigation? How is learning developed to Wisdom, from
Understanding, from Knowledge, from Information, from Data (WUKID)?
Thus, I am skeptical about a STEAM initiative that might confuse
processes of organic thoughts with physical reality.
There might be a way to collaborate, though, if we recall the
classical view of a "whole person" as consisting of "body, mind, and
spirit". If we refer to the body aspects of school as the HPER
(Health, Physical Education, Recreation) courses; the mind aspects as
the STEM courses; then the spirit aspects would be in the "Arts" or
the "Humanities". Each has a role in preparing students for life,
work, college, and career.
Yet, to ask "What are the Humanities", we might hear the medieval
classifications: literature, theater, painting, politics, economics,
speech, drawing, etc. These terms make it difficult to connect with
the STEM areas directly, resulting in misunderstandings, collision,
resistance, and backlash when attempting to bridge instruction in the
Maybe a different perspective is needed, focused on the life and work
skills students should have when they graduate. We can easily see what
the STEM skills should be about the KNOWLEDGE needed for understanding
the external world. What is needed is learning how that knowledge
RELATES to the world, gives personal MEANING in the embodied mind, and
is EXPRESSED through actions.
It might be more useful, then, to describe these life and work skills
as the "Communication, Creative, Cultural, and Social Arts (CCCSA)".
Re-packaging existing courses with a focus on the eternal question
"When will I ever need to know this?" with "this is a communication
skill that will allow you to convince your boss that you should get a
pay raise because of the great programming design that you developed"
might generate more interest than the usual reasons.
So if we connect the writing of a computer program with an activity or
project that involves writing a proposal to a boss, for example, the
learner is forced to make a relationship between the STEM topic and
how it relates to a CCCSA skill they will need beyond graduation.
Refocusing the CCCSA courses on life and work skills would allow
teachers and curriculum specialists to collaborate across the school
hallways with shared activities, assignments, and projects. Each could
score their portion of the student's work, giving dual credit for
documentation and achievement.
So before we try to shove the Arts into STEM with a cute acronym,
let's readjust our focus on the students, and how they can better
identify what they need to be able to know and do in this 21st
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