By Dr. Hope E. Wilson, Collaborative Board member and researcher, and Assistant Professor, Department of Foundations and Secondary Education, University of North Florida
As the Innovation Collaborative worked to promote highly effective practices for STEAM education, it became apparent that we needed a way to measure the impact of these practices on students. As a result of this work, 4 different rubrics were developed. The background of the research can be read in this article about the rubrics.
Wilson, H. E., & Presley, L. (2019). Assessing creative productivity. Gifted and Talented International, 31(4), https://doi.org/10.1080/15332276.2019.1690956
In this article, we will give you a brief overview of how you might be able to use these rubrics in your own practice as an educator, administrator, or STEM, humanities, or arts advocate.
The first set of rubrics is designed to help teachers evaluate their lessons. In these rubrics, teachers and evaluators can assess the extent to which a lesson provides opportunities for students to either integrate STEAM content and/or exhibit thinking skills. They include the Content Lesson Rubric and the Thinking Skills Lesson Rubric.
Student Product Rubrics
The second set of rubrics is designed to help teachers evaluate student products. In these rubrics, teachers and evaluators can assess the extent to which students either integrate STEAM content and/or exhibit thinking skills. They include the Content Student Product Rubric and the Thinking Skills Student Product Rubric.
Now, let's take a deeper dive into the specifics of each rubric, starting with the content rubrics. The content rubrics (for lessons or for student products) are meant to measure the extent to which the lesson or the student product demonstrates the content areas. There are three components to each of the content rubrics: Degree of Integration, STEM Content, and Arts or Humanities Content.
Degree of Integration
The degree of integration criterion is based upon the continuum of integration. The scale measures from low levels of integration (single disciplinary) to complex and deep integration (transdisciplinary).Think about how much the lesson offers opportunities for students to connect content areas together and how much the content areas depend on each other for the lesson to be successful. For student projects, you are evaluating how much the students are able to integrate the different disciplines together.
The STEM content criterion is based upon the quality of the science, technology, engineering, or mathematics content. This scale measures from surface-level understanding to deep, rich understanding of big ideas. This can be evaluated for how the lesson developed opportunities for understanding or for how the student demonstrated the understandings.
Arts or Humanities Content
The Arts or Humanities content criterion is very similar to the STEM content criterion. You will be measuring how well the lesson elicits this understanding or how well the student is able to demonstrate this understanding. You also may be assessing the students' skills or performance.
The next set of rubrics are based upon the thinking skills that were developed by representatives from Collaborative arts, STEM, and humanities institutions, with guidance by its Research Thought Leaders, top researchers in each field. Each of the rubrics (for lessons and for student products) have 6 criteria: Synthesis and Transformation, Generalizations and Applications, Problem Solving, Visual Analysis, Persistence, and Collaboration.
Synthesis and Transformation
This criterion is where the rubric captures the creativity of the student products or the ability of the lesson to elicit creativity from students. Depending on the project, you might be thinking about fluency (the number of ideas generated), originality (how unique the ideas are), relevancy (if the solution or product solves the problem in an innovative way), imagination or fancifulness (creative solutions that might not be practical), or synthesis (putting different ideas together to make a new idea).
Generalizations and Applications
In this section of the rubric, you are evaluating the lesson on how it gives opportunities for students to make generalizations or applications, or how well the students are able to apply their knowledge. These ideas are related to analysis of problems and ideas, scientific practices, inferencing strategies in reading and science, and examples in mathematics. Students with the highest scores in these categories will be able to make generalizations and applications that show both deep understandings and unique ways of thinking. Similarly, lessons that score highly in this category will provide open-ended opportunities for applications and generalizations, with multiple ways for students to respond.
The problem-solving criteria refers to any (and all) of the stages of all manners of problem solving, such as engineering, artistic, and creative problem solving. Although STEAM lessons at times may not use the entire process (from asking questions to evaluating the solution), framing the lesson around portions of the process can be helpful to demonstrate the thinking skills that students are using in the lessons. For example, students may be provided opportunities to define the problem or assignment, when given looser parameters, or evaluating possible solutions if they brainstorm ideas before selecting their final project (e.g., making thumbnail sketches in art).
Visual Analysis refers to the process of looking, observing, and analyzing objects, materials, or other resources to gain information. This is a process that can be used in science (e.g., observations done in laboratory settings), engineering (e.g., form follows function), dance (e.g., the movement of the body), and is an important component of the STEAM curriculum. You will evaluate both the lesson's opportunities for visual analysis and the students' use of the visual analysis skills.
Persistence is the ability of a student, or group of students, to continue when they face challenges, setbacks, or sense failure. High-quality lessons provide opportunities for students to experience setbacks and also to provide structure and support for students to continue. The most successful students are able to learn from their mistakes and setbacks and continue moving forward.
The last criterion involves collaboration. Through our research, we have found that collaboration has been an integral part of student success in STEAM activities. The most successful lessons involve giving students opportunities to collaborate, either in the creation of products, the generation of ideas, or the evaluations of final products. Students who are able to successfully collaborate with peers demonstrate high levels of thinking skills.
A Few Notes
It is not expected that every lesson or every student product would demonstrate all of the listed criterion. That would make planning a lesson almost impossible! However, we do know that the most successful lessons that engage the students the most in STEAM activities incorporate many of these criteria. We hope that the rubrics are helpful to you, not only in evaluation and assessment of lessons, but also as reflection and planning experiences for your students. Hopefully, they can help you as you think about STEAM lessons in your own classroom or school contexts.