From my perspective as an Artist, Researcher, Educator and Art/Science
collaborator, please find some thoughts on the topic of STEM to STEAM:
Last week I presented a keynote titled 'Drawing as a way of knowing in
biology' at the Society for Experimental Biology (
http://www.sebiology.org/homepage) London meeting 'Creativity in Science
Education'. At the meeting there were many great presentations by
biologists who have successfully integrated creative approaches such as
model making, acting and the creative use of technology (robots, drones,
mobile phones). It was striking that few integrated drawing into their
approaches and I think that this may be because it is very difficult to
assess students drawings, as in fact it can be difficult to assess students
creative work in general.
I was extremely happy to have the opportunity to talk to this group of open
minded biologists and educators about drawing as a way of knowing as it
seemed that the creative capacity of drawing had genuinely been overlooked.
This seems a little strange considering the important role that drawing has
had in so many scientific disciplines and especially in the work of those
scientists who described their own work as 'creative' or 'playful' (think
Feymann diagrams/drawings, Watson and Crick's sketch of DNA and Flemming's
drawing of bacteria as he discovered penicillin). In a way, it seems simple
to bring more creativity into science education just by including relevant
drawing practice into the course. With this in mind, I enjoyed talking
about drawing as a way of knowing in biology through examples of scientists
drawings and my own drawing methods, highlighting the epistemological value
of drawing in each case.
After the meeting I was glad to receive this message from Professor Graham
Scott (Associate Dean (Learning and Teaching) Faculty of Science and
Engineering, National Teaching Fellow, School of Biological, Biomedical and
Environmental Sciences at the University of Hull, UK)
'*Thank you Gemma, your contribution to the meeting was fantastic. We
rounded off with a session encouraging everyone to explain their 'take home
moments' and explain how they would fit into their practice and several
people (myself included) explained that you had caused them to re-evaluate
their use of drawing and made them think of ways to increase the value that
it has. So that was a real positive'.*
At the meeting I was also struck by many of the talks which described the
improvement in student motivation and results when creative approaches were
introduced. This seemed to indicate the general benefit of a more pluralist
approach in terms of teaching methods, i.e: The inclusion of tacit and
haptic or 'active' and visual learning styles, and I believe that this more
pluralist (even holistic) approach to learning should be an important focus
in the STEM to STEAM movement that we are discussing here.
Dr Gemma Anderson
Artist and Lecturer in Drawing at Falmouth University
Honorary Research Fellow, Egenis, University of Exeter
Drawing Research Associate, The Big Draw, UK
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