The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in his/her own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In this issue, we visit with Bob Root-Bernstein, whose research in the arts-sciences and scientific creativity helps underpin the work of the Collaborative. He is a Professor of Physiology at Michigan State University, where he conducts research on autoimmune diseases, the nature of scientific creativity, and arts-sciences. You can learn more about Bob here.
In a conversation with Lucinda Presley, Collaborative Executive Director, Bob talked about his work and its relationship to the Collaborative.
Lucinda: Tell us about how your arts-science research developed.
Bob: I’ve been doing research in this field since graduate school in the 1980s. I always have been interested in many things. For example, although I majored in science at Princeton, I also am an artist and a musician. Like my parents, I am a polymath, with interest and expertise in a number of disciplines. I was interested in not just one narrow field, but in how disciplines intersected. I wanted to be a scientist, but I didn’t like the narrowness of the training. So, as a graduate student, I studied and received my doctorate in the history of science, which allowed me to work across disciplines. In my research, I saw that famous scientists such as Pasteur and Darwin also were artists and that it was these artistic skills that very positively impacted their work. For example, Darwin was polymathic, making breakthroughs in geology, geography, biology, and botany, and using photography as a scientific tool.
Here are some resources where you can learn more about Bob Root-Bernstein’s research.
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART 1. A Review of Studies Demonstrating the Effectiveness of Integrating Arts, Music, Performing, Crafts and Design into Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medical Education, Part 1: Summary of Evidence that Integration Is Professionally Useful and Effective. LEONARDO 2017: doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_01579
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART II. Review of ACD-STEMM Integration, Part 2: Statistically-Validated and Controlled Pedagogical Studies of the Root-Bernstein’s “Tools for Thinking”. LEONARDO 2017: doi: 10.1162/LEON_a_01580
Root-Bernstein RS, Pathak A, Root-Bernstein MM. PART III. Review of ACD-STEMM Integration, Part 3: Statistically-Validated and Controlled Pedagogical Studies of Eleven ACD-Integration Strategies Utilized by STEM Professionals and General Conclusions. LEONARDO 2017: doi:
Root-Bernstein, R., et al. Arts Foster Scientific Success: Avocations of Nobel, National Academy, Royal Society, and Sigma Xi Members. Article (PDF Available) in Journal of Psychology of Science and Technology 1(2):51-63 · October 2008.
Robert Root-Bernstein STEMM education should get “HACD”. Science 06 Jul 2018: Vol. 361, Issue 6397, pp. 22-23. DOI: 10.1126/science.aat8566
Are you an out-of-school educator who is engaged in STEAM-based teaching?
Learning environments can range from after-school programs in community centers or school-sponsored field trips to summer camps or other experiences held outside the formal classroom. This research will look at the intersections of STEM and the arts as well as STEM and the humanities.
If you are an out-of-school educator serving early childhood through higher education students, the Collaborative welcomes your participation in this important study. To find out more and to access a brief survey go here. It should take you 15 minutes or less to complete.
Upon conclusion of the research study, an archive of validated strategies and tools will be available to help advance and refine STEAM teaching practice that can ensure maximum learning and success by students that ultimately will help promote vital innovative thinking skills.
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.
With the continued support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Innovation Collaborative is continuing its K-12 Teacher Professional Development Study of STEAM-based learning and teaching in the 2018-19 academic year. Working with its Innovation Fellows, the top teachers identified in the first round of research in 2017-18, the project is now studying how to further develop teacher leaders and networks. During this second phase of the research, the Fellows selected teacher mentees whom they will help to develop their own STEAM-based teaching strategies.
The mentees assembled in Houston, TX, December 7-9, 2018, for an in-person workshop that focused on the content and methodology that will anchor their work in 2019. The Fellows, who will work with their mentees throughout the year, joined the workshop virtually. Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley led the session. Also participating in the training were the grant’s researcher, Bess Wilson, the grant’s arts specialist, Fellow Juli Salzman from Angleton, TX ISD, and the science specialist, Dodie Resendez from Texas Education Agency Region IV in Houston.
When educators move from traditional instruction to innovation, there are many structural challenges that can slow their progress. It’s not just a matter of teacher enthusiasm. They also need access to materials to support new ideas. The National Science Teachers Association’s (NSTA) four-year old effort to identify and encourage the best in children’s STEM literature was no exception. It would not be enough to recommend a few good books. The initiative was led by Missouri educator Carrie Launius. Among the goals were ways to encourage publishers to recognize how creativity and innovation could be fostered through reading, and to provide materials that met those goals. And, of course, they had to be confident that these books would sell. A well-publicized national competition would go a long way to accomplishing these goals.
Towards that end, in 2014, NSTA, working in partnership with the Children’s Book Council, set out to recognize and encourage the best in STEM process-based literature. To begin, they had to develop a rubric featuring criteria that didn’t focus on content. The structure of the publishing industry doesn’t easily adapt to new ideas and new genres—especially when their use in the classroom has not yet demonstrated profitability. Trade books that are used to support various school content areas (like science or engineering) are often marketed and sold by specialized sales reps in those areas. Very few teachers use reading to support lessons in mathematics or technology (coding) so there isn’t an easy path to creating that niche. The rubric would have to clearly encourage publications that emphasized creativity and problem-solving “habits of mind.”
References You Can Use
Here are three great articles for teachers on STEAM, from the National Science Teachers’ Association’s journals, Science Scope and Science for Children:
STEAM to Your Classes, by Cheska Robinson
(Science Scope, September, 2017, Volume 41)
This column shares recent conversations taken from the NSTA listserv community about current science education topics, including how to add STEAM to your classroom by using STEAM-based icebreakers and team-building activities on the first day of school; strategies for creating a STEAM-centered classroom makerspace: and how to gradually replace end-of quarter assessments with STEAM design challenges throughout the school year.
Moving Beyond STEAM: Art as Expression, by Cassie Quigley, Judy Harrington, and Dani Herro
(Science Scope, July, 2014, Volume 40}
An overview on how to move STEM to STEAM by adding the arts to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education to produce powerful and authentic learning opportunities: Link
STEAM education can be looked at through many lenses, but there is a tendency to view it primarily through the needs of classroom teachers. There is a good reason for this as teachers ultimately make STEAM happen. But STEAM isn’t a lesson. STEAM isn’t usually a class. STEAM is a culture and culture is systemic.
What does that mean exactly? It means that every organization has a culture set by patterns formed by interrelating and interconnected attitudes, goals, norms, and practices. If a culture is not intentionally set, it will develop organically.
An organization’s culture is nurtured by the vision and practice of its leadership. The leaders in a STEAM education program depends on the scope, ranging from a teacher practicing STEAM in their room to a superintendent overseeing a division-wide program. When resources improve, and the impact of the program grows with the scope, the values and practices necessary to grow an effective STEAM program remain similar.
Here are the attributes of a positive STEAM culture:
STEAM is successful when leaders value all the STEAM subjects. In most states, only two of the STEAM disciplines are assessed, but they all have equal value. This belief can be demonstrated in many ways, but an understanding that each of these disciplines has their own standards, body of knowledge, and vocabulary is an important start. It’s also important that the teachers of these subjects are regarded as professionals with valuable contributions.