Greg Pilewski | December 2014

STEAM Leadership: Lights, Camera, Action…..Make a STEAM Scene

Recently, I was listening to a principal of a STEAM school say that they are not providing enough clarity to their teachers on what STEAM should look like in their classrooms.   Their teachers were at different levels of understanding of implementing STEAM/arts integration and they themselves as a leadership team needed to provide more clarity on what evidence they will collect to make sure they are on track with deepening their implementation.

Sound familiar?

Implementing STEAM/arts integration is a process, but it starts with having a clear understanding and a crystal clear vision for what it looks like, sounds like, and feels like in action.  With a clear vision its much easier to provide clarity not only to your teachers, but to your leadership team which is equally as important as you collect evidence to monitor the implementation process.

Therefore, in order to assist you with providing more clarity about your STEAM/arts integration implementation why not create a STEAM scene?

In their 2013 book, Leading Successful Change by Gregory Shea and Cassie Soloman illustrate the 8 keys to making change work.  They state that clarity of purpose for any organizational change is an essential first step and avoids wasting resources such as time, money, effort, and communication.  See chapter 2 of their book “Make a Scene: Envision What You Want” pages 19-29 for more information.  Below are some strategies to help you focus on changing human behaviors and to make a STEAM scene.

Strategy #1  Imagine the Future of STEAM 

Remove yourself from your current state of constraints and major obstacles and move far enough into the future.  For district leaders, this might mean looking into the future 5-10 years out.  For school-based leaders this might mean looking into the future 2-4 years out.

Strategy #2  Think Full STEAM Ahead 

Implementing wide-spread STEAM change requires the altering of human behavior across large numbers of people in a school or district that are reacting to a variety of verbal and non-verbal cues from their daily working environment.  What specifically are you trying to get your classroom teachers to do with STEAM/arts integration?  Deeper alignment between classroom standards and core arts standards through unit and lesson planning?  Ongoing refinement of the delivery of instruction through project-based learning?  Questioning at higher-levels of cognitive demand?  Assessing core content and the arts?  What is your end purpose?  Can you state your purpose in one simple sentence?

Strategy # 3 Identify the Major STEAM Players 

Which members of your school or district will most likely contribute to the end state?  Focus on function and behavior rather than job titles or descriptions. Students switching from passive to active learners?  Teachers transitioning from delivering instruction in content isolation to STEAM/arts integration? Instructional support staff moving to delivering high quality STEAM/arts integration professional learning?  Leadership teams switching to collecting evidence of STEAM/arts integration learning and reporting their findings? Remember, you are creating your STEAM future so the sky is the limit!

Strategy #4  Create a STEAM Scene

Imagine a scene involving key STEAM players and their roles. How might the classroom teacher interact with core arts teachers within the school, another school, district, or another part of the world? What triggers the interaction?  New information and learning about integrating standards?  Why does the classroom teacher care?  Why does the core arts teacher care?  How can you tell?  Think about all that would transpire during this interaction and simply record it as if you were observing the conversation.  Now, make the scene come to life and dig more deeply into the details.  Pay attention to the following items Shea and Soloman outline on page 23.

  • Person-Think about a particular person in a particular role in your organization.  How will the change effect the person’s day-to-day job or even just a particular set of activities? What does that person do today?  What will she do differently tomorrow?

  • Flow Chart- Create a step-by-step chart that helps you tell the story of the imagined change.  What happens first?  What happens next?  Who takes what actions?

  • Story-Tell the story from the perspective of the focal person or persons.  Relate the story in the first person.

  • Props-Mock up a sample report, dashboard, or meeting agenda for this brave new world.  The specificity in and of itself is not the point; it only serves to illustrate.

Strategy # 5 Practice 

Now, focus on another key STEAM player in your school or district and repeat the same process in strategy #4 above.  Maybe one STEAM scene involves students, another involves classroom teachers, or a school leadership team or central office support team. What about a STEAM scene about your community or business partnerships? How will you know when you have sufficient work completed on each scene?

According to Shea and Soloman “The Paretro principle can help here-have you depicted the right 20% of the change, enough to make you confident that the 20% in place, the other 80% will follow? If yes, then move on.  If not, then develop the scene further or construct a new scene.” page 24.  Good scene construction is one of the most difficult in the change process, but it is so critical and necessary as you seek to provide clarity prior to implementation. Even if you are currently in the process of implementaiton this is a great process to seek clarity.

Tell us about your STEAM scenes!  Did your STEAM student scene reveal anything?   What did your STEAM classroom teacher scene uncover?  Did your STEAM leadership scene tell you anything new?  What themes emerged from all the STEAM scenes you created?  How can this process help you transition from your current STEAM state to your desired STEAM state? 

About the Author

Greg is a former Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction and has nearly twenty years of classroom, school-based and district-level leadership experience in five different public school systems. He has a passion for teaching and learning and a commitment to supporting school-level and system-level leaders with integrated and innovative resources. Not only is Greg an accomplished leader and speaker, he’s also an avid tinkerer in his workshop where he enjoys making projects around his historic home for his lovely wife and two Labrador retrievers. You can catch Greg’s insights right here each and every Thursday and contact him directly at: