How do you know if your school is ready for STEAM? Many K-12 schools are making the shift from STEM to STEAM, citing the many benefits of integrating the arts across content areas. But this approach is more than simply adding creative activities or maker spaces to your program.
As with any initiative, there are many moving parts to STEAM education. Each school brings unique assets to the approach, including but not limited to:
- Background knowledge in STEAM methods and strategies
- Tools and resources that already exist or have been purchased
- Partnerships with local community members and organizations
- Buy-in from teachers, students, and parents
- Previous programs that may support a shift to STEAM
- Passionate and strategic leadership for STEAM implementation
Your combination of these assets, along with the level of support you have (including fiscal and human resources), lay the groundwork for your pathway towards implementing STEAM in your school or district.
As a way to support this process, we’ve created a STEAM Readiness Scale for K-12 schools. This scale provides leaders and staff with a tool to determine where they are in their implementation journey and actions to take which lead to the next step.
It’s important to note that this scale builds off of each level. So while you can have elements of various levels, your best implementation opportunity relies on meeting the elements at each level and building upon it strategically.
Let’s take a deeper dive into each level of the scale. Each indicator acts as both an action step and as a way to know whether you’re ready to move to the next step. If you’ve achieved that action, you’re ready to go to the next indicator.
Research and Implementation: Levels 1-3
In this section, we’re looking to gather information and understand the approach. Additionally, we’re developing a guiding mission and vision that takes into account the specific staff, community member, and student stakeholder groups. Each level is critical here. It’s easy to do some research and then jump right into program development. But taking the time to build your team and develop a mission and vision will guide the rest of your steps long-term.
Level 1 Indicator: The STEAM approach has been selected as a tool for school improvement. Research into the approach is being conducted.
Level 2 Indicator: A gap analysis has been conducted and a survey has been sent to teachers and community members. A STEAM team has been created to review the data from the analysis and survey.
Level 3 Indicator: The school mission, vision, values, and goals have been reviewed and revised based on implementing the STEAM approach.
STEAM Demonstration: Levels 4-6
Now that you know what STEAM is, where your gaps are that need to be addressed, and have a strategic plan in place, it’s time to begin training your staff and building connections with the community. In this section of the STEAM readiness scale, we’re providing professional development, listening to feedback, and making adjustments along the way.
Level 4 Indicator: 70% or more of the staff is in the self or task focus of the CBAM assessment.
Level 5 Indicator: Specific, differentiated professional development in STEAM is provided on a regular basis and STEAM strategies are being used consistently within instruction.
Level 6 Indicator: Feedback on the STEAM approach is being shared regularly from all stakeholders and changes are being implemented as needed based on feedback provided. STEAM partnerships are being explored.
STEAM Implementation: Levels 7-9
Finally, we’re at the stage where we’re focused on the actual implementation of the STEAM approach. This is when we begin to look at lesson delivery, collaborative planning, financial support for long-term success (aka: budgeting for supplies and materials), and measuring the impact of using STEAM as a teaching method. As a school team, we’re shifting from wondering how the approach impacts us individually, to wondering how we can support each other and learn more to get even better. As a school community, we’re engaging in STEAM regularly and it’s positively impacting students.
Level 7 Indicator: 70% or more of the staff is in the task or impact focus of the CBAM assessment.
Level 8 Indicator: Collaborative planning is provided regularly and lessons align STEM and arts standards and assessments. Lessons are inquiry-based, hands-on, and equitably utilize application of knowledge from STEM and arts areas.
Level 9 Indicator: STEAM partnerships are established for sustainability and scalability. Financial, human, and logistical resources are considered and deployed for the long-term viability of STEAM in the school or district. Reviews of the STEAM implementation are being conducted regularly and adjustments are made according to the data provided.
This is the fun stuff! It’s so easy to want to do this section first because the results are tangible. But without the other stages, this last section won’t be sustainable or as impactful as it could be.
This STEAM Readiness Scale is just the tip of the iceberg for building and leading STEAM efforts in schools. There’s so much more to supporting this approach for maximum success. If you’re a school or district leader and interested in becoming STEAM certified, be sure to explore our STEAM Certification for Leaders program.