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 trouble with STEAM and why we use it anyway

Partners' Institution
Fundacion para la Formacion Tecnica en Maquina-Herramienta
Year of publication
Educational stage
University Level
Journal name
Thematic Area
Definition and characteristics of STEAM
As an emerging field of theory, research, and practice, STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) has received attention for its efforts to incorporate the arts into the rubric of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) learning. In particular, many informal educators have embraced it as an inclusive and authentic approach to engaging young people with STEM. Yet, as with many nascent fields, the conceptualization and usage of STEAM is somewhat ambivalent and weakly theorized. On the one hand, 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. This paper attempts to disentangle some of the key tensions and contradictions of the STEAM concept as currently operationalized in educational research, policy, and practice. We pay particular attention to the transformative learning potential supported by contexts where STEAM is conceptualized as both pedagogical and mutually instrumental. That is, neither STEM nor arts are privileged over the other, but both are equally in play. We link the possibilities suggested by this approach to emerging theories for understanding how designing for and surfacing epistemic practices linked to the relevant disciplines being integrated into STEAM programs may point the way toward resolving tensions in inter- and transdisciplinary learning approaches.
Relevance for Complex Systems Knowledge
- This paper discusses the five disciplines, apart from science, technology, engineering and mathematics, it talks about art. Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary integration is discussed.
- There is no methodology of study, it is an article where an epistemic analysis of STEM and STEAM is made and the influence or importance of adding the discipline of art to consider the integration of aspects related to art with other disciplines for the development of projects.
- No evaluation method
- This article critically examines the concept of STEAM, with the aim of understanding what STEAM is and what it can be. In addition to recent calls to incorporate the arts and humanities into STEM, it is necessary to consider what is possible with transformative STEAM approaches as they are framed to contribute to improved educational outcomes. Finally, the transformative learning potential supported by contexts in which STEAM is conceptualized as pedagogical and mutually instrumental, meaning that neither the STEM fields nor the arts are privileged over the others, but that all fields are equally at stake.
Often it is important to develop the artistic theme.

This article does not focus on students' difficulties, gender inequality or curricular economics; STEAM interpretation has been from an epistemological point of view
Point of Strength
This article does not focus on students' difficulties, gender inequality or curricular economics; STEAM interpretation has been from an epistemological point of view
Art, epistemic practices, instrumentalism, science, transdisciplinary
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

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