Building on two previous NEA grants, the project included teachers and administrators from the arts, sciences, math, English Language Arts, gifted education, technology, and social studies in grades K-12. To support the initiative, the project convened its Innovation Fellows, top teachers identified in the Collaborative’s first round of research, and selected administrators in Houston, Texas, to develop the PD. The Collaborative’s Fellows and selected teacher and administrator participants from the first cohort then became project leaders, mentoring the next two cohorts’ participants and helping guide their growth throughout the PD.
Online course components included readings and activities with related discussion posts, mentoring webinars with facilitators, and creation and implementation of STEAM lessons and experiences, using the Collaborative’s STEAM rubrics. An important component of the PD was the integration of Responsive Teaching, a methodology developed in collaboration with Collaborative partners at Texas Southern University to address the needs of underserved students, including those in rural and high poverty communities and historically marginalized or learning challenged students. The Responsive Teaching strategies used align perfectly with STEAM and contributed to the project’s success. One administrator participant pointed out that the link between STEAM and Responsive Teaching made all the difference in identifying opportunities for this type of teaching throughout her school district.
Another administrator in secondary science said she had originally thought that, in STEAM, art was the icing on the cake. Through the PD project she came to realize that art was the primary ingredient that makes the cake and that, without it, there would be no cake. She also said that art can help STEM students understand the STEM content better.
Another aspect of the course identified by participants as highly important was the use of the Collaborative’s creative and innovative thinking skills and its STEAM continuum from multi to transdisciplinary learning. An administrator highlighted what others thought in saying that the continuum and thinking skills “made everything gel”. Both an elementary science teacher and an elementary music teacher said they considered the thinking skills so important that going forward they will have the thinking skills as posters to use in their lesson planning.
Using the Collaborative’s rubrics also made a difference, teachers and administrators reported. One STEAM coordinator said, “I will be using them (the rubrics) in my planning. They provide me a consistent tool…aligned for both teacher and student.”
It was noted that the teachers’ and administrators’ students also benefitted as they learned to think across disciplines for greater creativity and also content understanding.
In spite of COVID, participating teachers were highly enthusiastic about the course. A teacher said the training had “real stuff you can take…and use right away”. Another teacher said, “This is probably one of the best (and most useful) professional development opportunities I have taken part in for quite some time.” Encapsulating what many teachers felt, an administrator said, “This work has been absolutely game-changing for me”.
The Collaborative is now making this teacher and administrator professional development model available to other teachers, schools, and districts.
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong research foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in their own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In our previous newsletters, we brought you interviews with each of our Thought Leaders and also examined ways to apply their important ideas in STEAM learning. This new series will showcase conversations between various Thought Leaders around an important and relevant topic.
This first article in the series features a conversation between leaders in the arts and STEM worlds. Rob Horowitz, PhD, is Executive Director, ArtsResearch, and Associate Director, Center for Arts Education Research, Teachers College, at Columbia University. He is well-known for his arts education research that demonstrates the important relationships between in-school arts learning and cognitive, social, and personal competencies (see newsletter article for resources and information about him). Hubert Dyasi, PhD, is Professor of Science Education, The City College, City University of New York (CUNY) – retired. He is known for the teaching and learning of science in pre-college education in the US and in Africa (see newsletter for information about him and his recounting of how curiosity led to science centers across Africa). Future articles in the series will feature further conversations about the intersections of creativity, neuroscience, the arts, and STEM.
In this conversation with Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley, Rob and Hubert engaged in an inspiring discussion about the importance of creative and innovative thinking and these thinking skills' relation to their disciplines and to the intersections of the arts and sciences.
Why is it important for today’s students to develop creative and innovative thinking skills?
Not only today. We have always said this is important.
“The arts can be a counter to the rote learning that often happens in education.”
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Each discipline can be as creative as any other discipline in a lot of ways. Along with creativity, I’ve really been impressed in this pandemic by some ways the arts are the glue bringing social and emotional perspectives to children. You can see this, when parents are trying to get their kids to stay online and stay focused on schoolwork, that it’s often an arts activity that gets the student to move or do something creative.
It would be very useful for us to go to the Innovation Collaborative’s effective ways of dealing with creativity and the Collaborative’s creative and innovative thinking skills because those actually relate to science learning. In science teaching, there’s always this important question relating to facts about a phenomenon: How do we know what we say we know? Also, what kind of evidence are we going to use to decide if this is something worth considering and is it based on the field’s standards for valid evidence? These Collaborative thinking skills help address that.
Why is creativity important in the science field?
"Imagine if people in science never questioned what they were told, or never thought of other ways to answer a particular science question."
For example, around 200 AD it was believed that blood originated in the liver and went from there to different organs in the body where it was used up. Imagine if no one ever questioned that. In fact, people didn’t publicly question it for over 1500 years. It took a long time for scientists to say there has to be another way of looking at this because they had seen in animals they dissected that the heart beats all the time while the organism is alive and they had asked: “what is its function?” The scientists who thought seriously about this surmised that the blood goes from the heart to different parts of the body and returns to the heart in a continuous flow; it’s the heart and not the liver that pumps blood to the rest of the body. But there wasn’t an easy way to find this out. At the time, this was really creative thinking.
A British doctor named William Harvey (1578-1657) said we know that every time the heart contracts, the amount of blood it pumps out is only about 2 oz. Knowing that the heart normally beats 72 times a minute, Harvey calculated that the heart pumps out 8640 ounces of blood per hour. It was inconceivable that the liver could make this large amount of blood from food and distribute it to every organ in the body every hour of the day. So, based on his knowledge of the heart’s anatomy and functioning, Harvey proposed that the blood must be flowing in a closed system and circulating throughout the body from the heart and back. He also concluded that the heart acts as a pump to move the blood to and from the organs.
This process all started with knowledge and curiosity and creatively developing evidence to support a scientific theory. Scientists had to use their creative thinking abilities to come up with an explanatory model that fits the evidence, something that can be replicated or checked by others. They also had to use the creative thinking skill of envisioning - visualizing in their minds what they were thinking - to develop the investigations. So, creativity in science is important. These investigations don’t come out of nowhere. They build on what’s known and the evidence that’s there, and that’s very important.
How do the arts look at creativity?
"The arts aren’t inherently more creative or innovative than other disciplines."
Like Hubert said, there is all this creativity in science. I agree with Hubert that there is no reason that creativity and innovation couldn’t apply equally to science and math – or maybe any subject.
"What distinguishes the arts are the interpretation and the representation of an idea and the emotive aspects within it."
And the representation in that creativity is artistic. That leads to the intersection of art and science because the arts have an inherent communicative component where you are expressing ideas and feelings that could be scientific, too.
As in science, there’s also this idea of building on a prior network of knowledge and understanding. This is inherent to scientific inquiry, but also to creating meaning and expression in the arts, especially when we add the affective or emotional dynamic.
We work with less well-defined constructs than science and so it’s often harder for us to scientifically test those ideas. For instance, testing the notion of creativity. We don’t have a single definition of what that is. To define it and put it in a quantitative research model is very challenging. It’s more challenging than in the hard sciences where things are more easily defined and testable. Some of the more interesting constructs are some of the hardest to measure, such as transfer (of skills and knowledge between disciplines) or innovation.
The arts are unique, in that there’s a combination of cognitive, affective, and psychomotor skills. There are interesting and valid measures for creativity, but they probably have more error built in than measures in the hard sciences, where the testable idea is well-defined. We try, but we can only start to approximate the constructs that are the result of artistic experience. I’ve done a lot of work with the Torrance test of creativity. It’s a very interesting test and a valid measure. It worked well in many ways. But we saw that there are things it didn’t capture that relate to arts education and how we were thinking about creativity. That is, it only approximated the manifestation of creativity through the arts that we observed in arts classes.
"And there are notions of creativity that are still being debated in arts education."
For example, the Torrance test values originality, or thinking differently about a problem. However, some people believe that there could be a true, or perfect, solution that could reflect the highest artistic expression. I know this is debatable but worth thinking about when measuring creativity. For example, Bach had a phenomenally creative way of resolving cadences that are odd, and different – original – but also seem perfect and true. There are similar examples in other art forms and across cultures.
How do the syntheses of the arts and sciences promote creative and innovative thinking?
I want to go back to something Rob said about representation and communication as used in the arts. These actually are equally inherent in the sciences and engineering. Communication is essential in science and is one of the key components of science inquiry. If a scientist is poor in communication, their representation is going to be lacking. A scientist may visualize an idea but if (s)he can’t go beyond that and represent and communicate it so that someone else can understand it, the field is not enriched.
"In relation to innovation and creativity, if you are going to think of an event or a way to test something, you can do it the way it’s been done before, or you can think of a truly innovative way of testing that principle that people haven’t thought about before."
An example is Lynn Margulis (1938-2011), an outstanding botanist and evolutionary biologist. She challenged many peoples’ notion that at the base of evolution is idea of competition. She said that there is some evidence that basically within a plant cell there actually is symbiotic, mutually supportive, collaborative activity. In the plant cell, chloroplasts (organelles that contain chlorophyll which gives the green color to leaves) and mitochondria (an organelle that helps produce energy in the plant) - have different DNAs from each other and from the cell, itself. Their functions are to help the plant cell carry out its life processes. On its part, the plant cell serves as a sustaining host. The organelles and the cell are thus in a symbiotic co-existence.
So, when we support thinking in innovative ways, it’s not just about challenging ideas but it is also about thinking of new ideas or of other ways of looking at something that is not the standard way. But, like Rob said, just because it’s innovative doesn’t mean it’s better. But in Margulis’ case, it actually was enriching the science field by increasing the knowledge. You have to have creativity to know what to look for.
"We also talk of visualization in science and science education. Part of the thing about creative thinking is actually visualizing something and then saying, “let’s see if we can do it that way” and then seeing what happens. Saying “what happens if” is the outcome of the art skill of visualization and of the use of knowledge and creative thinking."
Talking about what Hubert was saying about communication, in the arts there’s always a need to share – even if you are sharing with others in your imagination. When we have an idea, we often build a mental structure in a spatial way. This could be a complicated science idea needing a complicated depiction, and you reproduce that in a physical sense. This could be an intersection with the arts where you can see the boundaries between disciplines break down.
These spatial representations take shape in art forms besides the visual arts, such as in music. There are many ways artistic representation coincides with scientific investigation. These disciplines may not be that separate, after all. Also, there can be a conforming quality to education, which is no one’s fault, but this structure can lead to a rote instructional approach that does not support creativity or innovation. In line with the Collaborative’s work, we have seen how teaching artists come into a classroom and shake things up, getting students to look at things differently. Scientists can do that, too.
"A scientist can come into a classroom, like a teaching artist does, and get students to look at things differently to enhance their learning. The Collaborative can shake that up and get people to work across disciplines. This can lead to creative and innovative thinking."
I’m so glad you made that point. We try to do that in science education with science inquiry and with students raising their own questions to investigate. That is now totally strange in schools. It’s not the fault of the teachers; it’s how education is done. I see what you are talking about how the Collaborative could play that role in increasing creative and innovative thinking. A key part of that is including science practices in the learning, as long as we keep in mind that you can’t separate the practices from the development of science ideas. I want also to note that the practices and the content are both important.
"The arts, the sciences, and the humanities all start by considering the same world and as we go in different ways, we must remember that connection, that we are dealing with the same world, the same nature, and the arts people are dealing with the same materials as the science people."
That idea of exploring materials in visual art is important. It parallels the scientific process. Scientific understanding really is inherent to all artistic creation. So, the arts and sciences do work well together.
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong research foundation for the Collaborative’s work. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in their own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In previous newsletters, we brought you interviews with each of our Thought Leaders. This new series, launched in the Winter 2021 newsletter, reflects on how you might apply some of their most important ideas to your work in STEAM education. To do this, we’re using Collaborative research findings and examples of successful applications of these ideas in teaching practices. The first article in this series examined creative and innovative thinking. The second article explored STEAM and interdisciplinary learning. This third article in the series looks at collaboration. A future series article will address STEAM models. The information below is based on Thought Leaders’ interviews and an in-person convening in Washington, D.C. in 2016, that was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
A hallmark of effective practices in STEAM education is collaboration, both among students and among teachers.
Thought Leader Input:
By Mary Dell’Erba, Collaborative Advisory Council member
On July 13-14, 2021, the Arts Education Partnership (AEP) hosted a Policy Academy on STEAM Education. The event convened teams of five leaders from three states—South Carolina, Vermont, and West Virginia. Participants created action plans to advance STEAM education in their respective states. During the two-day event, state teams received information and coaching from AEP and Education Commission of the States, with which AEP is aligned. Participants also received coaching and information from STEAM leaders in Georgia, Ohio, and Nevada. The proposed state plans include items such as instructional resources; assessment considerations; defining STEAM education at the state level through policy statements; hosting a statewide summit to convene STEAM leaders and facilitate collaborations; and articulating pathways for STEAM school certification.
AEP will continue to offer targeted technical assistance to these states, in collaboration with the Innovation Collaborative, for up to 18 months. This assistance will support implementation of the states’ plans in alignment with the goals of the Innovation Collaborative’s States’ Initiative. The technical aid may include: information requests, providing testimony or research on STEAM education, facilitating meetings, or conducting state visits, travel permitting. The Collaborative’s State’s Initiative, led by AEP’s Mary Dell’Erba, focuses on providing the Collaborative’s STEAM research findings to support STEAM education at the state level.
Mary Dell’Erba is the Arts Education Partnership’s Senior Project Manager. For more information about the Policy Academy, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Collaborative’s first goal is conducting and sharing research on the many ways that STEAM (Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Arts/Humanities, and Math) promotes creative and innovative thinking for all demographics. Throughout the 7 years of this research in K-12, the Collaborative has focused on discovering the most effective practices in classroom implementation and teacher professional development. This work has been generously supported in part by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.
To share its research, the Collaborative publishes its findings in peer-reviewed journals, among other venues. The third Collaborative research article, “Effects of Transdisciplinary STEAM Lessons on Student Critical and Creative Thinking”, has just been published by The Journal of Education Research, a publication of Routledge, Taylor, and Francis, the leading publisher in academic education.
The article is primarily authored by Bess Wilson, PhD, Collaborative K-12 Co-chair and Assistant Professor, Department of Foundations and Secondary Education, University of North Florida. Secondary article authors are Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley, Collaborative Innovation Fellow Kimberly Olson, and Dr. Wilson’s graduate assistants HwanHee Song and Julie Johnson.
The article shows how STEAM classroom lessons and experiences can strengthen student creative thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and persistence.
In line with another Collaborative goal, applying research to practice, these findings, along with all other research findings, will be applied to the Collaborative’s upcoming STEAM teacher professional development and classroom implementation in the 2021-22 academic year. These findings will be integrated with the Collaborative’s Culturally Responsive Teaching strategies to meet the needs of all learners, especially those in underrepresented populations.
You can find the article at: Effects of Transdisciplinary STEAM Lessons on Student Critical and Creative Thinking.
The Collaborative’s Visibility Committee has been researching strategies and content to help raise the public profile of the organization, motivate membership, and provide more value to member educators, administrators, and other invested stakeholders. Much of its proposed work focuses on website content and social media engagement. This includes:
Arts education institutions and their members across the US are addressing Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Access (DEIA) in a variety of ways.
View this Arts Are Education Talk It Up podcast to learn some of the ways this is being accomplished.
The podcast is hosted by Jim Palmarini, Educational Theatre Association Policy and Advocacy Advisor and Director of the Arts ARE Education (ARE) campaign. ARE is sponsored by the National Coalition for Core Arts Education (NCCAS), a coalition of national arts and arts education organizations working to make standards-based arts education available for every student.
This ARE podcast features Erika Hawthorne, Education Specialist for the Arts Education Partnership (AEP), a national network of organizations dedicated to promoting arts education. In this podcast, Ms. Hawthorne discusses AEP’s Equity Working Group and its current efforts.
By Sharon Delesbore, PhD, Collaborative Board Member
Sharon Delesbore, PhD, is a Collaborative Board member and President of the Association for Multicultural Science Education, an affiliate of National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). She also is Asst. Principal, LV Hightower High School, in Ft. Bend ISD, Missouri City, TX.
This article is an adaptation of a blog she was invited to write for the STEM Teacher Leadership Network. This network is an NSTA affiliate that focuses on improving schools, policy, and the future of STEM education. As the Collaborative focuses on serving the needs of diverse populations, this article points out the importance of equity, diversity, and inclusion in science education.
I must preface this piece with honesty. It was difficult for me to pull my thoughts together to write given the many incidents of injustice, white privilege and racism that remind us of the continued inequities in our society. In an effort to create an America of equality, we, as a nation, have worked hard not to offend “others”. When I say “others”, I mean the different groups of people who have felt neglected, negated, and punished for not fitting into the idealized image of being an “American” that is commonly communicated by our mainstream and social media.
Truthfully, this country’s forefathers created a document framed in biased ideologies. Their definition of being “created equal” was limited to white men of financial means. It is 2021 and things have changed, with new, courageous voices speaking up, asserting that individuals and organizations must become self-reflective practitioners and conscientious reformers willing to meet the challenges of creating equity in all aspects of our society. The need for equity is most pressing in the education of our students, including in science education.
Our work to create equity in science education will not come to fruition until educators recognize and realize that the work starts from within. Are we truly ready to look ourselves in the mirror and ask tough questions that go to the root of our beliefs about how we think about all people, whether black, white, Hispanic, Indian, male, female, rich, poor, disabled, or gifted? I am speaking particularly of and to anyone who feels that they have not been represented with dignity. I am speaking of and to anyone who believes that they do not have a seat at the table of decision-making. I invite you to pull up your own chair because your thoughts are valued and your input wanted.
For any conversation to begin, I always like to start with an operational definition of words. There are many shared definitions of diversity, equity and inclusion; the ones I’m sharing here are but one example.
Diversity refers to the demographic subgroups within educational institutions. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), released in April 2013, identified student diversity through seven case studies noted in Appendix D – “All Standards, All Students: Making the Next Generation Science Standards Accessible to All Students". The four accountability groups defined in No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act [ESEA], Section 1111(b)(2)(C)(v) were;
Further, student diversity is extended by adding three groups:
Equity is the intentional consideration, formulation, and implementation of practices, policies, and procedures within an organization to deter systemic biases that can hinder the measurable outcome of programming as well as create barriers that can affect student achievement within demographic subgroups in comparison to institutional expectations and performance standards. Equity fosters accountability between stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and those designated to perform within the organization. A conscientious, equitable mindset can help begin the process of desegregating and reversing bias implications of practice. To create equity in science education will demand individual and corporate reflection that includes asking some tough, fundamental questions. One strategy that might help is the application of the A-List Approach©, which was developed by Dr. Delesbore to create equitable opportunities in science education for all students. It can address this dilemma by:
Creating equity in science education is a ginormous undertaking. As scientists, we thrive in data. The challenge is reminding decision-makers our students are the deliverable outcome of the curriculum we develop, time we invest, budgets we anticipate, and futures that we hold in the palm of our hands. Every decision we make determines the destiny of every child. We must take the blinders off, remove bias, prejudice, and racism from the equations that we formulate in our society to ensure that all students have the same opportunity to excel and contribute to our America, whether in science or whatever endeavor they pursue, given the educational opportunity they so richly and equally deserve.
About the Author: Dr. Sharon Delesbore is the president of the Association for Multicultural Science Education (AMSE), an affiliate organization of the National Science Teaching Association. AMSE was organized to stimulate and promote science teaching to students of culturally diverse backgrounds and to motivate such students to consider science-related careers; to explore and promote the improvement of science curriculum, educational systems and teaching methods in school; to assist such stimulation; to recruit and involve teachers of all minorities in science education; and to initiate and engage in activities and programs to further improve the science education of culturally diverse students.
In case you missed it when published in 2017, The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World is well worth a weekend of deep thought. Authors David Eagleman (a neuroscientist) and Anthony Brandt (a musician) take a unique look at human history and innovation from their diverse but complementary perspectives.
Eagleman is the Emmy-winning writer and host of the PBS series, The Brain. He also is the director of the Center for Science and Law at Stanford University. Brandt is a composer and Artistic Director of the contemporary music ensemble Musiqa, winner of two Adventurous Programming Awards from Chamber Music America and American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP).
Not an “odd couple” at all, the co-authors look at art and science together. They examine how many innovators--from Picasso to Steve Jobs--build on what already exists to create something new. Their paradigm is organized into three categories:
The book is filled with countless other examples, including how the invention of flamboyant hairstyles, bicycles, and stadium designs might share the same basic processes. As one reviewer noted: “Understanding ourselves and our creativity is a journey that also helps us to understand what makes us human".
What makes this book especially valuable to educators is that these examples can be models for students to use when innovating. A question such as “Could you solve this challenge by bending or breaking or blending?” can be the spark. Students who might have been convinced that they were not creative can find ways to appreciate themselves and their own unique ways of thinking. “Thriving in a constantly changing world requires us to understand what’s happening inside our heads when we innovate', the authors remind us.
In Fostering a STEAM Mindset across Learning Settings, Laura D. Carsten Conner, Blakely K. Tsurusaki, Carrie Tzou, Perrin Teal Sullivan, Mareca Guthrie, and Stephen M. Pompea describe their seven-year project to connect both out-of-school and in-school practitioners and settings. They initially developed their conceptions of STEAM mindset in out-of-school summer academies for youth. The STEAM kits they developed in these settings were eventually adopted by the local school district. Their report, in Connected Science Learning (October - December, 2019) describes “a tapestry of STEAM connections between in-school and out-of-school settings.”
Most impressive in their report is evidence that “self-compassion, rather than self-judgment, can help quiet (a child’s) negative inner voice and promote creative practice”. They describe these key principles:
In The Trouble with STEAM and Why We Use It Anyway! its diverse authors argue: “STEAM offers significant promise through its focus on multiple ways of knowing and new pathways to equitable learning. On the other hand, it is often deployed in theory, pedagogy, and practice in ambiguous or potentially problematic ways toward varying ends”.
The authors analyze varying STEAM definitions and warn that because the approach has so many different interpretations, using the term STEAM “may force a backlash against inter- and transdisciplinary approaches to learning”. They trace the history of the approach and document a variety of research strands that have contributed to understanding STEAM today.
The report pays particular attention to the great potential of programs “where STEAM is conceptualized as both pedagogical and mutually instrumental, meaning neither the STEM fields nor arts are privileged over the other, but all fields are equally in play with the potential for transforming educational policy and practice”.
This scholarly article can provide significant support to teams that want to innovate across boundaries in ways that break traditional norms. The extensive reference section provides more empirical support for developers.
Read more about the work of authors Sam Mejias, Naomi Thompson, Raul Mishael Sedas, Mark Rosin, Elisabeth Soep, Kylie Peppler, Joseph Roche, Jen Wong, Mairéad Hurley, and Philip Bell in Science Education, March, 2021.
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong research foundation for the Collaborative’s work. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in their own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In previous newsletters, we brought you interviews with each of our Thought Leaders. This new series, launched in the Winter 2021 newsletter, reflects on how you might apply some of their most important ideas in your STEAM work. To do so, we’re using examples of the Collaborative’s successful application of these ideas in K-12 classroom implementation and teacher professional development. The first article examined creative and innovative thinking. This second article examines STEAM and interdisciplinary learning. Future series articles will look at such topics as applications of these concepts to learning settings, STEAM educator training, and creating effective STEAM models. The information below is based on Thought Leaders’ interviews and an in-person convening in Washington, D.C. in 2016, that was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Interdisciplinarity refers to knowledge that spans disciplines and fields. It is particularly relevant in the 21st century since many innovations occur at the intersections of various fields. Also, we live our fast-paced lives in an interdisciplinary manner, often experiencing science, art, and humanities phenomena simultaneously.
Thought Leader Input
By Lucinda Presley and Tricia Shelton
In this article written for Collaborative member organization, the Arts Education Partnership, authors Lucinda Presley and Tricia Shelton detail how the Collaborative and the National Science Teaching Foundation can support STEAM-based learning for remote learners in these challenging times and into the future.
Since remote and hybrid learning are dominant modes of teaching for the foreseeable future, educators and students alike can benefit from STEAM learning strategies to promote engagement and learning across settings. Research suggests that STEAM (the integration of sciences, technology, engineering, the arts and math) education can help address these needs by increasing student engagement and preventing learning loss associated with remote learning.
STEAM education can help develop students’ creative, social and emotional, and critical thinking skills to enable them to effectively process and navigate these unprecedented times. The transdisciplinary focus of STEAM education is also well positioned to reduce redundancy and maximize learning across the disciplines when instructional time is at a premium.
The National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) and the Innovation Collaborative have developed strategies and recommendations for high-quality STEAM learning for all students, which educators can integrate into their remote learning situations.
Pillars of Sensemaking
NSTA recommends four “must haves”, or pillars, for this type of high-quality instruction.
These four sensemaking pillars focus on the following opportunities and learning for all students:
These sensemaking pillars dovetail with successful hybrid lesson planning strategies the Innovation Collaborative found in preliminary studies that were completed with support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The following strategic steps are designed for real-world problem solving that engages and empowers students to explore important concepts:
While the future is uncertain regarding remote and hybrid learning, we are certain that STEAM education will continue to provide meaningful learning experiences for students. Enjoy seeing students thrive and grow!
The Innovation Collaborative’s national online STEAM teacher professional development series is expanding.
Launched in spring, 2020, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, this professional development program trains teachers in STEAM effective classroom practices using the Collaborative’s K-12 research outcomes.
Despite the pandemic, more than 24 administrators and arts, sciences, math, and social studies teachers from across the U.S. have already completed the course. The current spring, 2021, cohort is simultaneously training teachers, administrators, and course facilitators. These facilitators are course graduates and also Collaborative Innovation Fellows. Given their gained experience and expertise, these facilitators will be well positioned to conduct future online professional development for the Collaborative.
Both teachers and administrators report a desire to continue their training. To do so, the 2020-21 cohorts have begun networking virtually to continue collaborations long-term through guidance and a networking platform provided by the Collaborative.
By David Pyle, Collaborative Advisory Council member
I have a confession to make: I love organic chemistry. It's true. My original education was in the arts. Music and a BFA in painting and drawing. Then I was ruthlessly seduced by chemistry, physics, and math. That combination fueled a deeply rewarding career in business and media. A career that never would have happened had I not studied music, art, AND science.
Now, after 35 years that included managing consumer brand marketing, teaching, editing, writing, and executive leadership in publishing and media, I'm focusing on creating stories and resources that make those intersections between the arts and sciences - and the opportunities that arise within - clear and irresistible. For example, see the short resource videos at my CreativEnergy channel (https://tinyurl.com/5guohbwa) with titles like: ‘Mystery of the Portly Painting’ (did you know that oil paintings the world over are gaining weight at this very moment) and ‘Where'd that Color (Van)Gogh?’ (let's throw basketballs at poodle-shaped molecule models!). ‘From Caves to Charcoal to Carbon Fiber’ takes a Fred-Flintstone-Cro-Magnon guy from chewing on bear fat to inventing art-making to the molecular tetrahedrals of carbon.
I’ve had such a rewarding career - in business, teaching (art + Montessori), publishing and media - not because I operated as an “art-person” or a “science-type”, but because I’ve been fortunate to live and work in the convergence of the two. I had an inkling of what this could mean when I took my first college course in organic chemistry, a topic that people often say brings them to their knees. It was a summer program in which the class met for three hours each day, jamming two full semesters into just 10 weeks. I did well in the class. Really well. And I found that I loved the subject. Why? Because organic chemistry is highly sculptural. To understand what's happening at a molecular level, you have to be able to visualize what's happening in three-dimensions. I soon concluded that I was in love with the subject (in a way that other students clearly were not!) because of the experience I had as a visual artist. I could clearly SEE what was going to happen around the bonding sites of different molecules and the mechanisms that would drive their "dance”.
Over a period of years, it became abundantly clear to me that one of the most powerful and effective routes to really seeing the mechanisms of chemistry and physics - and of business and management - is through the creative skills that come with an artistic, integrative eye and ear. I've written and spoken about the "Perfect Intersection" in the arts; the fact that learning in the arts creates context and meaning around and within the other disciplines. In the hopes of making that connection tangible and real for others - and to add another voice to the many excellent programs and resources being developed across the STEAM community - I've launched the aforementioned CreativEnergy channel. Free lesson plans and other resources will be added soon.
Confessions of a love for other disciplines? There are so many others who can say the same. And while confession may be good for the soul - I hope it will also be good for STEAM!
About David Pyle
David's 35-year career in the arts and business has been fueled by his education in music, painting, and chemistry. In addition to experience as a teacher, he's managed consumer brands in the artist's products category, serving as Director of Marketing for Winsor+Newton and then Brand Director for Liquitex. In 2000, his book, What Every Artist Needs to Know About Paints and Colors, was published by Krause. Over the last 15 years, he’s served as publisher for the largest media brands in the fine art-making and crafting categories, most recently as Senior Vice President/Group Publisher with F+W Media managing The Artist’s Magazine, American Artist, Watercolor Artist, Interweave Knits, Love of Quilting and, online, ArtistsNework.com, ArtistsNetwork.TV, QuiltingDaily.com and Interweave.com and more. Through it all, he's continued to paint. In 2020, he left the corporate media world and launched a number of art-making initiatives, a new marketing services group called Pyle Creative Studio, and a series of educational resources for the art and science community.
By Juliana Texley, Collaborative Board member and former NSTA President
Is there a divide between science and imagination? Common conceptions of science as non-imaginative persist, but research suggests the critical role of imagination, both in the practice of STEM and in shaping learners' perceptions of themselves. Leaders at the Museum of Science, Boston, are exploring the intersections of imagination, STEM, and education practice in ways that are actionable for museum professionals. Their project will consider how research on imaginative thinking, and perspectives on the role of imagination in STEM practice and STEM education, can be systematically applied to support STEM learning in museum contexts.
A grant from the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program at the National Science Foundation (NSF) will support this project. This NSF division “seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments; provide multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences; advance innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments; and develop understandings of deeper learning by participants”. Research in the fields of neuroscience, psychology, child development, and education suggest ways that imagination can be fostered and improved. This evidence could be applied to the design of museum experiences to help improve STEM outcomes.
The project will complete a literature review, a document review, and a survey of ISE (Informal Science Education) professionals. It will host a convening of STEM professionals (researchers, practitioners, educators, and others) and disseminate products designed to inform future project development. As a result of these activities, the leaders hope to prompt conversations about imaginative thinking, identify areas for future research, and influence future research. They hope to inspire imaginative thinking among public audiences through exhibitions, programs, and other designed experiences.
The grant Principal Investigators are Rebecca Kipling and Christina Reich of the Museum of Science, Boston. You can find out more about the project at:
“Using Drama to Expand Student Understandings of the Nature of Science”
An article by Lydia E Carol-Ann Burke, Alison McAvella, and Anne Wessels
For decades researchers have identified the affective barriers that prevent students from identifying with the roles and practices of science. However, the December, 2020, Science Teacher journal describes experiences that contributed to significant gains in student understanding of the nature of science. These pedagogical strategies allow students to express their feelings and describe experiences in ways that are not common in science education.
In an introductory strategy, students sort 15 statements about the nature of science as “Agree” or “Disagree.” Then, students review their whole group’s record of agreement or disagreement and the teacher facilitates a discussion about understandings and students’ personal experiences.
In Strategy 2, student pairs create ‘freeze-frame’ depictions (tableaux) to represent the relationship between Science and Student. This strategy of striking and holding a pose is similar to the recent mannequin challenge trend and could be explained and set up in the same way.
In Strategy 3, students observe and discuss science-themed drama. The authors cite the Copenhagen movie as one example of a drama that allows students to consider the nature of science.
In Strategy 4, students create scenes that represent extracts from a larger storyline. First, the class collectively generates a list of important contemporary scientific issues. These issues can be local or global and can be general or specific to the topic of study. After creating the list, students as a group prioritize the issues (e.g., using a dotmocracy survey or other voting strategy). The top-ranking issues are then distributed as topics for small group work. There, they develop a short scene based on the issue assigned. The goal is to work toward an “inciting incident”, an event that would propel the main character into the central problem of the story in a dramatic or life-changing way.
The authors recommend that teachers be patient as students express themselves, being very attentive to the students’ comments, repeating and seeking amplifications and clarifications, until students are satisfied that they have clearly communicated their ideas.
ESL (English as a Second Language) students in the Engaging Newcomers in Language and Content Education (ENLACE) Academy at Lawrence (Massachusetts) High School, share the same challenges and more as native English-speaking students in these “unprecedented circumstances”. This started with an effort to get a 3-D printer for the art department. It ended up as a major effort in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow program for ENLACE art teacher Shaddai Vargas. Samsung sponsors a national competition that challenges public school teachers and students to come up with STEM-based solutions to problems impacting their communities. The contest helped Lawrence students come up with a whole world of new possibilities that integrate art, engineering, and technology. Vargas writes: “Teaching STEM through PBL [Project Based Learning] is something that I want to continue for the positive impact it will have on the future…not just for my students but for our community and the world. Integrating technology and PBL in my art class opened a new special vibe where creativity and community are in a constant boost”.
Vargas’ students’ projects involved looking for a solution to natural gas explosions, which had devastated homes in the community. As an art teacher, he felt the experience opened a “whole new world of opportunities” for his curriculum.
REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) is a research project conducted by OCLC (a global library cooperative), the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and Battelle (a global science and technology research institution). It will produce science-based information about how materials can be handled to mitigate COVID-19 exposure to staff and visitors of archives, libraries, and museums. Battelle has contributed data to guide the reopening process. Currently in the third stage of the project, the partnership is monitoring the protocols that have been developed.
Dafni Konstantinidi-Sofrona has reported on research about how computer workshops are interfacing with and supporting science learning in informal settings.
The CoderDojo workshops at the Science Museum, London, United Kingdom, are part of the CoderDojo global movement of free, volunteer-led, community-based programming clubs for young people. CoderDojo believes that an understanding of programming languages is increasingly important in the modern world, that it’s easier to learn these skills early, and that nobody should be denied the opportunity to do so.
Larry Ferlazzo offers “Ten Culturally Responsive Teaching Strategies for the Science Classroom” in Education Week
This column summarizes the culturally responsive teaching experiences and recommendations of 4 teachers, such as:
NSTA’s (National Science Teaching Assn.) Next Gen Navigator features a blog on ways to create a supportive and equitable environment in the science classroom. Some suggestions from the blog are listed below.
Read the entire blog at https://www.nsta.org/blog/building-anti-racist-science-classroom
The Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders help provide the strong research foundation upon which the Collaborative’s work rests. Each Thought Leader is nationally and internationally recognized in their own field and brings an extensive depth of experience and expertise. They also are adept at working across disciplines.
In our previous newsletters, we brought you interviews with each of our Thought Leaders. This new series will consider how you might apply some of their most important ideas in your STEAM work. To do so, we’ll use examples of the Collaborative’s successful application of these ideas in K-12 classroom implementation and teacher professional development. This first in a series of articles looks at STEAM’s relation to creativity and innovation. Future series articles will look at such topics as equity; interdisciplinarity; applications of these concepts to learning settings; STEAM educator training; and creating effective STEAM models. The easily readable information below is built upon the Thought Leaders’ newsletter interviews, on conversations with them, and on an in-person convening in Washington, DC, that was supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Creativity and Innovation
For the Collaborative, the definition of creativity relates to novel ideas, while innovation refers to the application of those novel ideas to appropriate uses.
THOUGHT LEADER INPUT
In its position as a national STEAM education trailblazer, the Innovation Collaborative has adopted its position on STEAM education.
This position was thoughtfully developed by a team of Collaborative leaders representing arts, science, and humanities institutions, with continuous input by all Collaborative members across disciplines and learning settings.
In this position statement, the Collaborative emphasizes the importance of equity, curiosity, and the application of competencies and practices across disciplines. These competencies and practices include, but are not limited to, fluency, originality, imagination, collaboration, problem-solving, risk-taking, and persistence. See Applying Research Thought Leader Wisdom article in this newsletter for more on applying creativity and innovation.
The Collaborative’s STEAM position also emphasizes the importance of transdisciplinary learning. In this approach, boundaries are erased among disciplines, increasing learning in addition to cognitive and affective growth.
In the last newsletter we summarized just a few of the ways in which educators and guides have innovated to provide effective COVID learning environments when traditional methods were not possible. Over the past year, this process has progressed with additional thoughtful approaches and also research-based analyses of where we are and how we might move forward.
Coping through Literature and the Arts
More and more, thought leaders are looking beyond the current health crisis to plan for recovery. This includes not only economic and structural measures but also intense attention to psychological and emotional crises that the pandemic has caused. Increasingly, writers are recognizing the important role that literature and the arts have and must continue to play in this process. Here are just a few of the resources and articles that have appeared in the past few months:
Trade Literature to Help Students Understand
(Recommended by Angela Ding at Worlddreader.Org)
The Unwelcome Stranger, by Drew Edwards & Diana Nawatene
A grandfather advises children how to cope and be kind.
I Love You, by Michael Ross
Kwizera does not understand why she cannot be physically with her grandparents.
Coronavirus: A Book for Children, by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson, Nia Roberts, & Axel Scheffler
This non-fiction book answers questions children might have about the coronavirus.
Hello, My Name is Coronavirus, by Manuela Molina Cruz
An informative book narrated by the virus, itself.
My Hero Is You, by Helen Patuck
Sarah is upset because she cannot go to school. She feels unsafe. An imaginary dragon gives her comfort.
The Virus-Stopping Champion by, Hilary Rogers
A short story convinces children that they, too, can be champions.
Read more at https://www.worldreader.org/now/6-books-to-help-your-children-understand-the-coronavirus/
Poetry for the Pandemic
And the People Stayed Home (Family Book, Coronavirus Kids Book, Nature Book), by Kitty O'Meara
A beautifully-illustrated poem that reflects the angst of in today’s world.
Arts for an Anxious World - and More
How Art Helps Us Make Sense of COVID 19’s Incredible Toll. (from National Geographic)
Contributed by Collaborative Innovation Fellow Julie Olson
In a field outside of JFK Memorial Stadium in Washington, DC, artist Susan Brennan Firstenberg’s art helps Americans visualize our shared grief—a flag for every one of our COVID deaths. People come and help, praying and giving physical manifestation to what we are all experiencing. That is one of many memorials that have bloomed across the country. Another is by a thirteen-year old student in Sherman Oaks, California, who is spearheading the creation of a quilt. Eventually, all panels of this quilt will be assembled. Like these exhibits, other art installations throughout the country are addressing the country’s shared COVID experiences.
Our Kids Need Arts Education More than Ever: Here’s What’s Lost Without It (from Time)
Frank Gehry calls on President Biden to empower school-age children to help heal themselves by restoring arts education because the arts…(help them) express and channel their emotions…and find their spirit’s song. He urges this emphasis on the arts so that children have the creative powers necessary to solve the problems we are leaving behind.
From the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
Teaching K-12 Science and Engineering During a Crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in widespread and ongoing changes to how the K–12 education system functions, including disruptions to science teaching and learning environments. This report describes high-quality instruction today, with tips for administrators, teachers and others. It emphasizes quality and equity, giving advice for managing and monitoring instruction. The free publication is available for download from the National Academies.
And for lightness and pure joy…
Pre-K Teacher Goes Viral After Sharing Virtual Classroom Dance Parties: “It’s About Bringing That Joy Factor”
Azel Prather, Jr., went viral when he shared his virtual pre-school dance party on YouTube. Pre-pandemic, Prather taught preschool at Kipp DC Arts and Technology Academy in Washington, DC. He has long recognized those children who were “dancing in their seats” when they were supposed to be learning sight words. Dance was part of the program then and it is now, through Instagram and other social media tools.
The approaches above are different, but the message is clear. Moving forward, education will never be the same.
The Educational Theatre Association’s (EdTA) August survey, “The Impact of COVID-19 on Theatre Education,” has confirmed the profound effect of the pandemic on school theatre throughout the United States, leaving many programs at significant risk in the coming years.
The survey queried more than 11,000 middle and high school theatre educators about the status of their programs in the pandemic environment. Nearly 2,400 teachers responded, offering a snapshot of how COVID-19 has reshaped both their teaching methods and student learning opportunities.
Analysis shows programs have suffered substantial revenue losses, with 91% of schools forced to cancel performances in spring 2020. For many programs, ticket revenue provides the main source of funding, as 44% receive no financial support from their districts. Money lost to investments in canceled productions coupled with lack of spring ticket sales created a ripple effect on current season budgets. In fact, 22% of programs faced cuts for the 2020-21 academic year.
Many survey respondents reported 2019-20 revenue losses that were substantially more than they earned, and it is likely the economic downturn will limit other funding support this school year and beyond. For teachers, the impact raises short-term concerns about student recruitment, morale, and motivation as well as longer-term uncertainty about reductions in program capacity, external funding, and student opportunities.
According to James Palmarini, Collaborative Advisory Council member and EdTA policy and advocacy advisor, the cancellations and lost revenue numbers were not unexpected, but still troubling. “We knew many theatre programs had to cancel their shows in the spring, but the numbers regarding those lost productions and revenue are still very sobering,” he said.
Palmarini added there was hope from respondents for the current school year, with 59% answering “maybe” and 19% “yes” to a question regarding whether they thought they would produce a live show in 2020 or 2021, and 97% indicating they were returning to their positions in fall 2020.
Seventy-five percent of educators stated they were starting the school year entirely virtually or in a hybrid model. The data on how they are adapting to the virtual environment suggests a broad range of strategies, with no predominant mode for reaching students. In the spring of 2020, the most frequently realized instructional strategies were virtual lessons taught asynchronously and available on-demand; project-based lessons spanning multiple class periods; instructional videos or digital games; and digital versions of lesson packets with worksheets.
EdTA will conduct a follow up survey in the Summer of 2021.
For a comprehensive summary of the survey results visit the EdTA Rapid Response Advocacy Center.
The National Coalition for Core Arts Standards (NCCAS) has launched Arts ARE Education, a national campaign encouraging school districts to continue to fund and support K-12 arts education programs in the 2021-22 school year. Given expected state and district budget cuts, calls for remedial education in tested subject areas, and the continued need for PPE equipment, NCCAS expects that arts programs across all disciplines will be at risk.
The campaign asks advocates of all ages to take these action steps through its website:
He added that the campaign is also mindful that students of color in high poverty districts are most likely to lose arts education access, given the limited resources the districts will have to continue with arts programs. “I think the Arts ARE Education campaign offers theatre education (and all arts education) advocates a great opportunity to raise their voices in a very grassroots way that can make a real difference for our students and the fields of theatre and all arts education.”
The Smithsonian has announced the 2021 Innovative Lives series. Over the past 25 years, the Institution’s Lemelson Center has hosted the Innovative Lives program series featuring more than 85 inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs. Attendees can participate in informal chats.
This year, Lemelson programs focus on diversity and inclusion in the invention ecosystem.
The webinars in the series are open for free registration. Below are upcoming events.
March 10: Growing Up with an Inventor and Sharing their Story through Film will feature documentary filmmakers Rob Lemelson and Cindy Yoon sharing stories and film clips from documentaries about their famous inventor-fathers.
April 14: Marilyn Hamilton, co-inventor of the Quickie Wheelchair, will speak with NMAH (National Museum of American History) curator Katherine Ott about her life as an athlete and inventor.
May 12: Sarah Will, Paralympic skier and accessibility advocate, and Mike Schultz, inventor of the Moto Knee and Versa Foot, will come together to talk with NMAH sports curator Jane Rogers about their respective careers.
Register for Growing Up with an Inventor
Rob Horowitz, Ed.D.
Executive Director, ArtsResearch and Associate Director, Center for Arts Education Research, Teachers College, Columbia University. He is known for his arts education research that demonstrates the important relationships between in-school arts learning and cognitive, social, and personal competencies.
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.
A Thought Leader is featured in each Collaborative newsletter. In this issue, we visit with Rob Horowitz, Ed.D., whose expertise and research in arts education helps inform the work of the Collaborative. In a conversation with Collaborative Executive Director Lucinda Presley, Rob talked about his work and its relationship to the Collaborative.
Tell us about your career.
I was originally a working musician, but was always interested in education. I had three major educational experiences that helped prepare me for my work. In my first experience, I became a teacher in New York City. Because I wanted to make a difference, I taught music, computer science, social studies, and a lot of other things at an alternative high school for students who had dropped out or been suspended. I became the tech coordinator for the school. I helped these students get their alternative degrees. I helped a lot of students, but there were also were a lot of challenges. In that job, I learned a lot about education, city politics, and how schools work. It was an enormously educational experience for me. I had an undergraduate degree in music and history, so, while I was teaching at the alternative school, I went to Teachers College at Columbia for a master’s degree in music education. I liked it so much, I stayed for another master’s in music ed. and then a doctorate in music ed. My dissertation was on assessment of jazz improvisation. I ended up leaving the teaching job and concentrating on those degrees. I loved research.
When I graduated, I ended up, in the 1990s, working for ArtsVision, a consulting firm based in New York City that did work all over the U.S. In this, my second educational experience, I helped ArtsVision with evaluation and assessment projects and curriculum and program development. We worked to re-energize arts education in New York City, which had been in decline for a number of years. The project resulted in a $36 million grant for NYC arts education, with $12 million provided by the Annenberg Foundation. For me, this was one of my main educational experiences because I learned about public policy, foundations, cultural groups, and their relationship to school systems. I also learned about how partnerships and collaboration work from all perspectives – from the funding to the teaching/practitioner side. Our work became the catalyst for New York City school districts to start emphasizing arts education once again.
Tell us about your research.
The Center for Arts Education Research at Teachers College, Columbia was awarded a grant from the MacArthur Foundation and GE Fund to study transfer, or how the arts can influence other kinds of learning. It was the largest study in a monograph, Champions of Change, that was published by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. Champions of Change has been widely distributed, and still has a strong internet life. Our study was called “Learning in and Through the Arts” (LIATA). My full-time job to manage that grant for a few years was my third major educational experience. I learned how to manage a large grant, how to think about transfer, and how the arts might influence other spheres of learning. The transfer model that we worked on and the ways of thinking about it has influenced my work ever since. (For more information on this transfer study, see the article “Transfer between Disciplines: A New Perspective” in this newsletter.) We developed a model which helped show that there are ways of thinking, feeling, and doing – competencies – that are unique to the arts and that also are applicable to other areas. Our model identified cognitive, social, and personal competencies and dispositions that are inherent to the arts and also applicable in other domains, that may provide the pathways to transfer. The model has been consistent with other models with some overlapping categories, such as Hetland and Winner’s Studio Habits of Mind at Project Zero, aspects of 21st Century Skills and CASEL’s Social-Emotional Learning Competencies. The consistency is encouraging and indicates we are collectively on our way to better understanding how the arts influence human development.
Mary Hafeli, who worked on that project with me, and I were recently funded by the National Endowment for the Arts to reopen some of the LIATA data and do a secondary analysis. We found strong relationships between elaborative thinking skills and visual arts and drama. We also found that the outcomes we described in LIATA were strongest when there was effective collaboration between classroom teachers and arts specialists.
What have you discovered in your research that points to the importance of the Collaborative’s work?
From my standpoint, we can look at some of these areas we identified in LIATA and see whether or not they are applied in other areas. For instance, it is interesting to observe how creativity, imagination, and the willingness to express oneself are applied in the STEM world. All the things we found in our LIATA transfer study can be carried through to other areas. It’s important to look at how those competencies learned in the arts are reapplied in other areas – or vice versa. That is what the Collaborative is doing with its rubrics and and thinking skills – looking at transfer across disciplines.
How do you think the Collaborative is moving the arts and arts education fields forward?
Certainly we need this type of work across disciplines where we all learn from each other, where we can delve into these bigger questions, and where we engage in those questions of ways of thinking, ways of doing, and how these interact across subjects. This is so important. It’s important, too, that the Collaboratve is returning us to that, moving us out of our silos so that educators can think about those relationships. The arts very much needs this to help the arts teachers come out of their classrooms and interact with other teachers, for it’s important for them to be a part of their communities.
What steps need to be taken in the future for K-12, out-of-school, and higher education to provide a firm foundation for the STEAM movement?
This is a big question. I’m coming at this from the arts, and I know other Thought Leaders are coming at it from other disciplines. But, from my perspective, when talking about STEAM, we want to make sure that the arts experience has integrity as an arts experience. In other words, children are engaging in artistic thinking as part of the STEAM project, and I think the Collaborative has done a great job with that. There’s also expression, representation, and those cognitive, social, and personal areas that are part of the experience. To be STEAM, it must have some form of visual or performing arts in order to access the important arts competencies.
How do you see the Thought Leaders and the Collaborative benefitting from their work together?
Talking to people from different disciplines with different approaches is just amazing. The conversations we’ve had in our Thought Leader meetings and in our Collaborative meetings are some of the best conversations I’ve had in the last couple of years. This gives me a chance to really hear and explore things I might not have thought about, such as how someone is going to learn science or what that experience is like. This reflects on all our work and it’s one of the reasons I liked working on the LIATA project so much. We are all so focused on finishing whatever we are working on that we often don’t have the chance to step back and take a look at what it all means – why are we doing this and how we think about things more broadly. We are all so focused on the practical, but here, in the Collaborative, we also are thinking conceptually, and it’s very stimulating.
It’s also really rewarding being a Thought Leader because in these rich conversations with Thought Leaders in other disciplines, such as science education and neuroscience, we are thinking about similar issues but from different points of view. I feel that there’s a consensus that the kind of transfer we are talking about, which is very hard to capture statistically, is conceptually what we all do in a way. We all learn in one context and apply that learning in another context – that’s what life and learning is. It’s not about subject to subject, say art to STEM, though there is some of that. Instead, it’s a way of thinking about things, say, about imagination and creativity. Since our subjects do get siloed in schools, this is helping because children work across those connections, integrating artistic thinking and STEM thinking.
Do you have any other thoughts you’d like to share?
I’ve been thinking a lot about the situations we are in because of COVID. As children go back to school, the arts are more important than ever because they bring a sense of community to the school. They also create a sense of identity and a way for children to relate to each other in multifacted ways. Though it’s tough times and children need to learn the basic skills and not fall behind, they also need to be able to feel, to express and make connections, and this is where the arts are so important in developing those cognitive, social, and personal skills. We must be vigilant to make sure that the arts and these skills are kept in place. This is not just arts for the arts’ own sake, as important as that is; it’s because these competencies that the arts engender benefit so many other areas central to their development. The arts content is the pathway for the development of these important competencies. It’s these competencies that enrich children’s lives for years to come.
Resources that address Dr. Horowitz’ research:
Learning In and Through the Arts – Champions of Change
NEA Secondary Analysis of Learning In and Through the Arts
What You See Is What You Get: The Development of an Observation Strategy, VSA, Contours of Inclusion
English Language Acquisition Through Dance and Theater: Impact and Pathways
Connections: The Arts and Cognitive, Social, and Personal Development, in Partnering Arts Education: A Working Model from ArtsConnection, Dana Foundation
Transfer, in the education world, is where competencies, skills, practices, processes, and/or content from one discipline can be applied to another discipline or context. It is an important issue to consider as we work to give today’s students vital creative (novel idea) and innovative (applying the novel idea) thinking skills for academic success and strong workforce preparation. The concept of mutual transfer among disciplines underpins the Collaborative’s goals of promoting creative and innovative thinking for K-12 and out-of-school-time students by focusing on disciplinary practices, processes, and competencies as students learn the required content.
The Collaborative’s arts Research Thought Leader, Rob Horowitz, Ed.D. (See “Meet Research Thought Leader” article in this newsletter.) has done significant research on the concept of transfer, having explored this concept for over 20 years. He and his colleagues have developed a strong transfer model that has received significant recognition, including its dissemination by Arts Education Partnership (AEP), the national arts organization that supports arts practice through research and policy.
This model is found in Dr. Horowitz’ work, “Learning in and Through the Arts: The Question of Transfer” (https://scinapse.io/papers/2119313428 and https://www.aep-arts.org/wp-content/uploads/Champions-of-Change_The-Impact-of-Arts-on-Learning.pdf). It looks at the issue of transfer more broadly and deeply than before. It points to competencies acquired in arts learning that are applicable in other subjects and to life in general. The arts content and skills, Dr. Horowitz says, though important in their own rights, can provide these pathways for transfer.
The compentencies in this transfer model are cognitive development, social development, and personal development. Cognitive competencies include creative thinking skills such as fluency, originality, imagination, and elaboration, in addition to focused perception. These, then, facilitate the ability to change perspectives, express ideas, and create meaning. The social/emotional competencies include the abilties to collaborate, communicate, and empathize. The personal, or affective, learning competencies include risk-taking, persistence, self-confidence, and the student’s ownership of his/her learning. All of these, he points out, can be carried over to other disciplines and contexts.
As examples of this transfer in action, he points to the long history of science where famous scientists worked across disciplines. This includes the naturalist John James Audubon, who used art as a way to understand and record his scientific observations of birds, and Leonardo daVinci, who used art to understand scientific phenomena, including dissections of the human anatomy, and to conceptualize his engineering designs. These men transferred art skills and competencies into scientific fields to promote their own understanding and to communicate meaning.
As important as the transfer of arts competencies to other disciplines is, he says, it is important to note that transfer of practices or competencies also can be conveyed from other disciplines to the arts. His study on transfer went beyond the concepts from the 1980s and 1990s that saw transfer as unidirectional from the arts to enhance learning in other subjects, such as arts enhancing test scores. It noted that skills engendered in other disciplines, such as creativity and critical and divergent thinking, can transfer back to enhance arts learning. This can be promoted, he points out, by shared ways of thinking between disciplines so that transfer then could be multidirectional, interactive, and dynamic.
The implications from this research, he points out, resonate strongly with the Collborative’s work. The Collaborative’s research has documented the importance of transdisciplinary learning where students integrate different disciplines’ practices, competencies, and content interdependently and simultaneously, seeing that one discipline cannot complete the task without the other. This, in turn, contributes to a deeper understanding of each discipline to achieve an overarching synthesis. This synthesis can help solve problems, explain phenomena, create a product, and more. “It’s important that educators think about these relationships and move out of our silos,” he points out, to provide our students even richer and more valuable educational opportunities.
An example of this transdisciplinary learning where different disciplines’ practices, competencies, and content are multidirectional, interactive, and dynamic occurred with 95 second grade underserved rural students (see image). They were given the problem of using the Elements of Art to invent a 3D wheel that could navigate Mars’ sandy and rocky surface. Through initial hands-on experiences integrating both disciplines, they combined their grade-level science concepts of texture, mass, rolling, and spinning with art concepts of line, shape, texture, and form (related to mass). They also integrated disciplinary practices such as (science) observing, asking questions, experimenting, developing a solution, testing, evaluating, using data to develop a conclusion, and (art) creating, presenting, responding, and connecting. They then used these science and art concepts to design and make their invention and write a team presentation that would show how well their invention solved the problem. One two-person student team creatively thought of their wheel having feet with magnets on them to “stick” to Mars’s magnetic soil that is high in iron oxide. They also added scoops to the wheel to scoop up the soil to test it. In their experiences, they didn’t separate the disciplines’ concepts and practices by thinking “I’m doing art now” or “I’m doing science now”. Their inventing process transcended each of the disciplines, driven by a strong synthesis that was richer than each individual discipline and that solved their problem, like in a real-world scenario. In the process, the students used many of the cognitive, social, and personal competencies outlined in Dr. Horowitz’ model. Assessments showed strong student integration skills and understanding of content. An increase in creative thinking was evident in 89% of the students. In addition, 100% of the teachers believed these experiences developed students’ critical thinking skills. One teacher said, “This enhanced my students because the kids got to use their own creative thinking and it brought them joy and they found a purpose they’ve never had before”.
This is evidence of an important takeaway from Dr. Horowitz’ study on transfer. He emphasizes that, while it is important that competencies engendered by arts learning can transfer from the arts to other subjects, it also is important to understand that important competencies used in a variety of other disciplines and can transfer back to the arts, and then go back and forth, with no one discipline having priority over another. This way, the strength of each discipline can flow to enhance other disciplines, and, ultimately, students’ learning and thinking for the present and for their futures.