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.

S+ T+ M= E as a convergent model for the nature of STEM

Partners' Institution
Kaunas University of Technology
Year of publication
Educational stage
Secondary Level, University Level
Journal name
Science & Education
Thematic Area
Definition and characteristics of STEAM
The paper presents a convergent model that defines the nature of STEM. The model enables teachers and other stakeholders in STEM education to determine the learning objectives, appropriate for the discipline and the integrated nature of STEM. It can help to promote STEM in K-16 education, analyze the educational changes using the model and identify the critical aspects of nature of engineering. A comprehensive analysis is performed for each STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) from the perspective of knowledge production and inquiry practices. A Venn diagram for the shared knowledge and inquiry practices is given in the paper and demonstrates the common fields for each discipline. The authors mention, that there is an opinion that nature of STEM cannot be defined as STEM is not discipline. However, they argue that the nature of STEM can be defined by the nature of engineering.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
The authors emphasize the importance of STEM-literate society and an increased number of college students in STEM disciplines. Individuals in STEM-literate society demonstrate skills required for problem solving, critical thinking, interpreting data and providing arguments. The appropriate level of STEM-literacy can be achieved by defining learning objectives and coherent priorities, helping teachers to teach the integrated STEM by defining how the disciplines compare, contrast, and complement each other. In addition, the convergence model provided in this article can stimulate the discussion about the nature of STEM.
The suggested model is based on the knowledge production and inquiry practices of each discipline. The authors define nature of science as a way of knowing the natural world in a form of theories and models. They state that the scientific knowledge is generated through observations, experimental evidence, and argumentation. The nature of technology is defined by its practical value, which combines the understanding the idea behind the technologies and its application to solve a problem. The technology is always changing and developing, its progress is usually forced by development of innovations. There are three approaches to define the knowledge in nature of mathematics. In the first approach, it is defined as a set of isolated rules to solve problems. Another approach defines it as a set of connected body of discovered knowledge. The last approach defines mathematics as dynamic knowledge that uses exploration and problem solving and is a subject to validation and revision. The traditional approach in inquiry practice state that mathematics is independent of human knowledge. This leads to teaching style that solves problems strictly by the procedures developed by the past mathematicians. The opposite approach state that mathematics was created through problem solving and established social validation. The nature of engineering consists of nine features, the main three of them are sources of engineering knowledge, knowledge production in engineering, and the scope of engineering. These features cover “know-how” and “know-what” concepts as the knowledge is obtained through repetition and practice of skills. The problems tackled by the engineers are evolving, therefore, they have to combine past knowledge and practice and create new knowledge to solve novel problems.
The suggested model of the nature of STEM is represented by a three-dimensional tetrahedron. The dimensions define (1) the focus on the physical / natural world; (2) the pure or applied form; (3) the number of ways the disciplines can be integrated. Regarding the first dimension, the science and technology deal with the natural world, mathematics combine both physical and non-physical worlds, engineering is specific to addressing the real-world problems. The purity dimension shows that science, technology, and mathematics can be analyzing in a pure form of being a domain of knowing. However, engineering is strongly related to the judgement to better mankind. The application dimension clearly shows that producing knowledge and inquiry practices are associated with engineering, while there is a number of ways science, technology, and mathematics can be integrated. Thus, the authors state that the nature of STEM can be characterized by the nature of engineering.
Such model enables students to pursue educational path in STEM in various ways and gives understanding of STEM as multidimensional construct rather than a single discipline or several integrated disciplines.
Point of Strength
The detailed analysis of STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is performed with respect to the knowledge production and inquiry practices. The new model for the nature of STEM was proposed. The authors state, that the nature of STEM is congruent to the nature of engineering as it does not have unique characteristics and is a combination of the other disciplines.
Integrated STEM, Nature of STEM, STEM education, Engineering