The STEAM-Active (Project Number: 2021-1-ES01-KA220-HED-000032107) project is funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

A framework for Epistemological Discussion of Integrated STEM Education

Partners' Institution
University of the Basque Country
Year of publication
Educational stage
Secondary Level, University Level
Journal name
Science & Education
Thematic Area
Definition and characteristics of STEAM
The overall aim of this paper is to establish an initial framework for philosophical discussion, to help analyze the aims and discourse of integrated STEM education, and consider the implications that adopting any particular epistemological view might have on the aims for general education, and on the construction of science curricula oriented towards citizenship and social justice.
Considering science, technology and engineering as separate epistemological practices will never be sufficient to take into account the richness and variety of actual scientific and technological developments. Thus, this paper proposes a description for Nature of STEM via the analysis of similarities and differences in the types of knowledge and practice of different disciplines.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The concept of integrated STEM education represents the intentional and explicit integration of various disciplines directed towards solving real-world problems and its goal is to prepare students to solve the world pressing issues through innovation, creativity, critical thinking, communication, collaboration and new knowledge.
Integrated STEM education would have the aim of equipping citizens with the tools they need to live in society and contribute to it, based on the pillars of citizen education: disciplinary knowledge, know-how, substantive comprehension, meta-knowledge, competencies for life and coexistence and competencies for responsible action. Regarding that, we need to retrieve conceptions of science, maths, engineering, computer and information science and technologies that move away from technocracy and conceptualize disciplines as social organizations, knowledge communities and cultural legacy.

The nature of STEM cannot be just explained as the sum of the natures of the four constituent fields, so this paper proposes a new description of Nature of STEM considering characteristics of all the disciplines.
Aim: the responsible resolution of relevant societal problems within a sustainability matrix. Each of the four disciplines would have its own separate goals—the development of solutions, the understanding of nature, the production of machines, the design of processes, etc.—and any such goals could be discussed with students for their integral literacy.
Methods: nowadays the frontiers between areas are blurred. For example, scientific practices include the regular application of a variety of rules of thumb and intuitive models for solving problems, the making of approximations based on mathematical or computational feasibility and the blackboxing of (parts of) systems through tuning to experimentally determined parameters. All those methodologies could also be used in other disciplines.
Modeling: In science, modeling is understood as a way of knowledge production. In engineering modeling is a strategy for understanding, predicting, and optimizing the behavior of devices or the properties of materials—real or possible. In technology, modeling is usually used to represent the design of a device or its functioning.
Experimentation and design: Design is not an exclusive feature of engineering and it aims at the control of material laboratory phenomena and its manipulation.
Kinds of knowledge: There are 3 types; (1) Designing functional objects and organisms, (2) proof of principle and (3) Innovation.
Closure: All the things, interpretations, uses and perspectives that must take into account when deciding that the problem has been solved.
Validation: Scientists cannot claim ownership of knowledge and they have to communicate their results transparently so they can be replicated. However, in engineering, the degree of expression or codification may be largely due to socio-economic circumstances.
Ethics: technologies exist in an economic context, which means that profitability is often an end that is actively pursued during technological development, sometimes at expense of other goals.
This paper envisages an understanding in integrated STEM education that science, technology, engineering and mathematics are inextricably intertwined and form part of a seamless web of society where politics and economics constitute a central element for preparing young students to engage in responsible action towards a more sustainable and just world. Students will be decision-makers in socio-scientific topics and producers/consumers of new information, knowledge and technologies.
Point of Strength
This article has a new point of view about how to interpret STEM epistemology since it is usually explained by the sum of each discipline’s epistemological characteristics. In this case, the paper talks about different characteristics of the Nature of STEM whereas it gives importance to the social part of the issues.
Philosophy of science, Integrated STEM education, Nature of STEM, Family resemblance approach, Seamless web, Humanist science education
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