‘STEAM education’, with its addition of 'arts' to STEM subjects, is a complex and contested concept. On the one hand, STEAM builds upon the economic drivers which characterise STEM; an alignment of disciplinary areas that allegedly have greatest impact on a developed country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP). On the other hand, the addition of the arts may point to the recovery of educational aims and purposes which exceed economic growth, for example by embracing social inclusion, community participation or sustainability agendas. Central to understanding the different educational opportunities offered by STEAM is the interrogation of the epistemological status of the Arts in relation to STEM subjects. The term ‘art’ or ‘arts’ may refer, for example, to the arts as realms/domains of knowledge, such as the humanities and social science disciplines, or to different ways of knowing and experiencing the world, enabled by specific art forms, practices, or even pedagogies. In the face of such variety and possibilities, STEAM is a portmanteau term, hosting approaches which originate from different reconfigurations or iterative reconfiguring of disciplinary relationships. A critical discussion of the term ‘STEAM’ will thus require an analysis of published literature alongside a review and discussion of ongoing practices in multiple ‘field(s)’, which are shaped by and responding to a variety of policy directions and cultural traditions. The outcome is a multi-layered and textured account of the limitations and possibilities for and relational understandings of STEAM education.
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- disciplinary configurations
- boundary object