Over the last four years, the Innovation Collaborative has engaged in research activities investigating effective practices in integrating the arts with science, technology, engineering, math (STEM), and humanities, focusing on K-12 classroom implementations.
Phase I of the project involved the examination of Arts and STEM integrated lessons, units, and experiences. From this analysis the following themes were identified as most important to effective lessons: providing deep content knowledge in both STEM and Arts fields, connections across content areas, specific criteria for assessment, and collaborations between teachers and between students.
Phase II of the project involved using the top lessons, units, and experiences that had been identified in Phase I to study the criteria in classroom settings.
Phase III of the project, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, involved providing professional development to the top K-12 teachers identified in Phase I, who then implemented high-quality lessons in their classrooms. This phase measured outcomes for teachers, students, and student products. It also led to the improvement of the rubrics to assess critical and creative thinking and arts integration of these lessons, units, and experiences.
The teachers who participated in the professional development overall reported growth in their teaching self-efficacy, including instructional tools, classroom management, and student engagement. They also reported increased confidence in their ability to use creativity in their own practice, in integrating disciplinary processing skills, and in teaching problem solving skills. They also gained confidence in integrating arts and science content, managing both art and science classrooms, and assessing integrated assignments.
This teacher professional development study was paired with the Phase 1 classroom study to also determine impact on the teachers’ students.
The Elementary students who participated in the arts/science integrated lessons, units, and experiences demonstrated significant gains between pre- and post-intervention in their enjoyment school, learning math, learning science, and thinking outside the box. They also experienced growth in their Understanding of Creative Thinking.
Compared to students who were in traditional art and science courses, secondary students exposed to the STEAM learning experiences had significantly more enjoyment of school, enjoyment of math, and interest in science. They also showed an increase in their perceptions of the importance of cross-disciplinary learning and of the importance of the arts in helping learn science. Additionally, these students developed deeper and more advanced understandings of creativity, an important workforce skill.
An important aspect of these Elementary and Secondary findings is that they were the same across ethnicities, for white and non-white alike.
As a result of this process, four rubrics were developed to measure the content and thinking skills of the lessons used by the teachers and the products created by the students. Inter-rater reliability estimates indicate that the rubrics have evidence to support their use. These rubrics show great promise as tools to provide for K-12 teachers’ use in their classrooms.
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