INTEGRATION OF ARTS IN STEAM PROJECTS: EXPERIENCE OF PRIMARY SCHOOL TEACHERSJournal: GAMTAMOKSLINIS UGDYMAS / NATURAL SCIENCE EDUCATION (Vol.17, No. 2)
Publication Date: 2020-12-20
Authors : Rūta Girdzijauskienė Gražina Šmitienė;
Page : 74-84
Keywords : STEAM projects; arts integration; primary school teachers;
STEAM education is named as one of the priorities of Lithuanian education, responding to the need to promote a culture of innovation at school and to develop students' creative and critical thinking. The search for opportunities of integration of the subjects of arts and sciences into teaching / learning processes involve researchers and practitioners from various fields (engineering, education, arts, culture, and technological innovation). The numbers of scientific publications on the concept of STEAM education and on the role of arts in it that have been increasing over the last decade testify to the scientific community's attention to the issue, however, they also raise so far unanswered questions about the integration of arts into STEAM theory and practice. Researchers address several problematic areas in STEAM education: insufficient analysis of practical cases, limited preparedness of teachers to implement STEAM projects, and one-sided interpretation of the purpose of arts. Not much is known about how teachers' value personal experiences in arts integration, how effective the inclusion of arts in the context of STEAM education is, and what the dynamics of STEAM discipline integration is. The aim of this study is to find out why and how primary school teachers integrate arts into STEAM projects, what challenges they face, and how they assess their competencies to ensure arts integration. To achieve the aim of the research, a focus group discussion with teachers working at two Lithuanian primary schools and implementing STEAM projects was chosen as the main data gathering method. The results of the focus group discussion revealed that the teachers preferred an arts-enhanced model of STEAM subject integration mostly through visual arts (drawing, photography, collage, and sculptural elements by gluing). Arts were applied with the aim of diversifying students' academic activities and enriching them with emotional experiences. The research participants saw the following advantages of including arts in STEAM projects: increasing the choice of activities and tools, enhancing students' engagement in learning processes, developing leadership and cooperation skills, maintaining learning motivation, improving critical and creative thinking skills, and linking learning to life. The limitations of teachers' competence to integrate arts into STEAM projects became apparent as well: insufficient knowledge of forms and ways of artistic expression, distrust of their own artistic abilities, and a lack of experience in cooperation with art teachers and artists. Based on the research findings, the directions of further research were formulated, the most relevant ones being an analysis of specific STEAM projects and the modelling of multidimensional STEAM projects.
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