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.

The nature of STEM disciplines in the science education standards documents from the USA, Korea and Taiwan

Partners' Institution
Kaunas University of Technology
Year of publication
Educational stage
Secondary Level, University Level
Journal name
Science & Education
Thematic Area
STEAM intervention (teaching strategies, evaluation...)
In this paper, the science education standard documents from the USA, Korea and Taiwan are analyzed and compared in the context of STEM disciplines and nature of science using framework of family resemblance approach (FRA). Although there are 11 FRA categories in the context of STEM, the STEM disciplines (Science, Technology/Engineering, Mathematics) in documents are compared in three categories, namely, aims, values, and practices. That is, the main aspects for comparison are (1) what outcomes STEM professionals intend to achieve because of their activities; (2) what qualities they commit to through their activities; (3) what practices lead to disciplinary knowledge through social certification. The article provides comparison how the keywords are covered in the standard documents of different countries by using Venn diagrams. The comparison is performed for each discipline and their intersection. The results of the analysis showed that the documents usually underrepresent the aims, values, and practices of mathematics and overrepresent the science-engineering intersection.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The article gives an overview of how recent science curriculum standard documents from the USA, Korea, and Taiwan address the nature of STEM disciplines regarding the disciplinary aims, values, and practices. The categories can be explained as answering questions about what outcomes are expected of the activities (the purpose of the activities); what qualities are committed (logical thinking, objectivity, understanding relations, etc.); what practices are applied (observation, estimation, data collection, experimentation, etc.). The analysis of the documents was performed using keywords used as categories in the framework of family resemblance approach (FRA). The FRA enables to extract the similarities and differences of distinct disciplines as they have some common features but also demonstrate specific aspects. The authors notice that STEM disciplines are highly interrelated, and the science education is strongly related to other disciplines. This results in adjustment of scientific literacy definition with new components, such as understanding science and engineering practices, computational thinking and systems thinking, cross-disciplinary skills and competencies. In the research, technology and engineering disciplines are taken as a single field because the characteristics of these disciplines often overlap.
There are several aims, values, and practices mentioned in these documents for each discipline, but the provided information is summarized as follows. For the USA science curriculum document, the aims were defined for all three disciplines. The distinct aims of science were noted as answering questions, explaining, finding order, and others. The technology/engineering discipline is characterized by defining and solving problems whereas aim of mathematics is to represent variables and relationships. It is determined that both science and technology/engineering share the same aim of finding patterns. The Korean document is dedicated to defining the aims of science and its intersections with other disciplines. The aim of science is presented as understanding the complexity of nature and diversity, identifying problems, and exploring the causes of phenomena. It shared the aim of solving social and environmental problems and identifying common principles with technology/engineering and understanding regularity with mathematics. In the Taiwanese document, the aim of mathematics was not defined, solving environmental problems was defined as the aim of technology. The largest number of aims was defined for the science discipline, such as discovering new knowledge and problems, solve problems, understand regularity, etc. The aim of technology/engineering intersection of science was identified as meeting the human needs which can be generalized for most disciplines. The values mentioned all over the documents were focused on replicability, ethics, logical thinking, objectivity, and others for the science discipline. The value for the technology/engineering disciplines as economic feasibility was noted for the document from the USA only. Both technology/engineering and science disciplines share general values, such as compliance with the legal requirements, technical feasibility, environmental considerations. The mentioned values in the Korean document are based on the concept of the scientific leadership, which includes innovation, adventure, futuristic attitude, risking challenges, and producing values. The authors state that practice is an important component of STEM disciplines and are listed as classification, observation, and experimentation. The most elaborate list for all disciplines is provided in the USA document whereas the Korean and Taiwanese documents discuss practices specific to science without referring to its relationship to other disciplines. The documents contribute to integration of nature of science to future curricula and standards.
The article does not discuss STEM curriculum implementation, so, the issues of gender inequality and students’ difficulties are out of the scope.
Point of Strength
Three science education standard documents from the USA, Korea and Taiwan were compared in this article using framework of family resemblance approach based on main categories, such as aims, values, and practices of STEM disciplines. This helps to generalize the implications about the integration of nature of science, nature of technology/engineering, and nature of mathematics to STEM disciplines without referring to a specific country.
Nature of science, STEM education standards
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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