STEAM EDUCATION IN FLEXIBLE LEARNING ZONES

Dr İpek Saralar-Aras, National Education Expert, MoNE-FCL Team

Abstract: STEAM education supports interdisciplinary approach by connecting the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics. In this article, first, the use of STEAM Education in national/international projects was discussed. Then, STEAM education was described according to the flexible learning zones specified in the Future Classroom Lab (FCL) Project. Finally, the importance of interdisciplinary studies and projects was emphasised through the Ministry of National Education’s 2023 Education Vision.

Introduction

STEAM education,applied from kindergarten to the university, supportsinterdisciplinary approach by covering the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics. Although it started as STEM at the beginning, it is observed that there is an active transition from STEM to STEAM with the inclusion of Art (Sousa & Pilecki, 2013; Tarnoff, 2011). According to many researchers, STEAM teachers can implement project-based education programs (Shatunova, Anisimova, Sabirova & Kalimullina, 2019). For example, Shatunovaand her colleagues (2019) said that in Russian compulsory education, students’ inclusion of interdisciplinary projects ina Technology lesson could be an excellent example of STEAM education. Turkey is a part of STEM and STEAM education projects conducted at national and international levels. One of the international projects is the Future Classroom Lab Projectin which Turkish Ministry primarily carries out an interdisciplinary approach in education.

Future Classroom Lab

The Future Classroom Lab (FCL) in Brussels was created in 2012 by the European Education Network (EUN- European Schoolnet), supportive education ministries and various industry partners to visualize how traditional classrooms and other learning spaces can be reorganized to support changing teaching styles (Ministry of National Education [MoNE], 2020b). The Future Classroom Lab is an inspiring learning environment that encourages visitors to rethink the role of pedagogy, technology and design in their classroom. Objectives of FCL Turkey include:

  • Examining the changing and developing innovations in the information and communication age,
  • Researching the usability of developments in information and communication technologies in educational environments,
  • Experiencing changing student and teacher roles,
  • Acquirement of 21st-century digital skills by students and teachers and
  • Creating a bond by involving different stakeholders such as teachers, students, principals, parents, policymakers, business partners in learning (MoNE, 2020b).

All studies related to the Future Classroom Lab Project are published in the FCL Turkey websiteand you can follow them in the link (https://fclturkiye.eba.gov.tr/); and FCL Continues Professional Development sessions,which are organized for Turkish teachers, are available in the “Future Classroom Lab – FCL Turkey YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCy-N740DaPlHGZjwjbYt_Xg).

FCL Turkey Team associates FCL flexiblelearning zones with STEAM education,andthe team also contributes to STEAM Projects. EDUSIMSTEAM and Scientix Projects are examples of these projects. You can find detailed information about the projects on the official project sites.

STEM Education in Flexible Learning Zones

Future Classroom Lab consists of six different learning zones, namely Interact, Exchange, Investigate, Create, Present and Develop(MoNE, 2020). Each zone highlights areas of particular importance in learning and teaching. This part of the article describes these areas in relation to STEAM education. FCL also includes the components of STEAM Education, which has become almost a necessity for all countries of the world and offers an innovative field for implementation. With a project and problem-based approach, students think about real-world problems, ask questionsto solve these problems, and learn by researching.Students learn lesson subjects by cooperating with their friends or teachers and participating in group classroom activities. Teaching and learning processes of subjects are determined in a way to meet the personal interests, goals and learning needs of students. The learning of subjects takes place by combining more than one subject content and skills with an interdisciplinary approach.Students’ different learning styles, abilities, readiness, and levels have significative role to designand carry out instructional activities. All these pedagogical approaches in FCL reveal that FCL supports STEAM Education in the teaching process (MEB, 2020).

Learning Zone 1. Zone to “Interact”

FCL supports how teachers can use technology and increase student engagement and interaction in flexible learning environments (MoNE, 2020). In the Future Classroom Lab, teachers use technology to increase student engagement and interaction. Ensuring the active participation of all students in traditional learning settings is a challenge. The solutions range from individual devices such as tablets and smartphones to interactive whiteboards and interactive learning content. The interaction zone requires the active participation of both students and teachers in learning (MEB, 2020).

Technologies used in FCL interaction zone can be associated with the Technology component in STEAM education. Technology is one of the most important components in STEAM education, which can be used from kindergarten to higher education. While finding solutions to problems in STEAM education, we can receive support from technology. Besides, technology-enhancedprojects are directly included in both research and group work. For example, the Preschool STEAM team has designed many technology-oriented STEAM activities for preschool students (Preschool STEAM, 2020). The team members stated that technology activities for preschool children are mostly done on computers but emphasized that simple machines can also be used to facilitate learning in the classroom. Simple machines such as scissors, gears, wheels, and pulleys are practical ways to experience the technology.

Also, even if you do not have access to electronic devices, you can still foster technology skills by offering different tools. You can access the activities of the Preschool STEAM team (such as how to use technology to enrich preschool learning, create a digital rainforest, digital cloud art, create a music video with pre-schoolers, superhero shadow signals) using the link below:

Learning Zone 2. Zone to “Investigate”

In Future Classroom Lab Project, students are encouraged to explore themselves; they are given opportunities to be active participants rather than passive listeners (MoNE, 2020). In the zone to “investigate”, teachers provide opportunities for inquiry-based and project-based learning to develop students’ critical thinking skills. Flexible furniture supports this concept and can be quickly redesigned for physical spaces, group work, co-work, or individual work. New technologies contribute to research by providing rich, versatile, and real-life data (MoNE, 2020).

The trend towards research in STEAM education is not too different from the field of FCL research. As students work together to solve a particular problem, they actively need research. In addition to their searches on the Internet, they also read books and journals to gain detailed information.In active learning based on research, students are more satisfied, and their motivation increases because they reach the result autonomouslyby researching. At the same time, the active access of the student to the information enables the information to be more permanent and in-depth in students’ minds (deep learning)(Bruton, 2017; MoNE, 2020a). Because, during student-centred inquiry-based learning, students engage in creative learning, ask thought-provoking questions, discover answers, and apply what they have learned when they solve problems (Bruton, 2017).

Learning Zone 3. Zone to “Create”

Future Classroom Lab allows students to plan, design and produce their own work (MoNE, 2020). A simple repetition of knowledge is not enough in the“Create” zone, students work with real knowledge construction activities. Interpretation, analysis, group work and evaluation are important parts of the creation process (MoNE, 2020).

In STEAM Education, as in FCL creation zone, students who are working on a project are expected to produce products and find solutions to problems under the guidance of their teachers. Considering this, working on planning, design and productionis an integral part of STEAM. All these pieces bring us together in creativity, which is one of the skills we should pay attention to. For example, scientists from Finland point to the need to develop creativity in mathematics education at school (Thuneberg, Salmi & Fenyvesi, 2017).Hence, the current science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics education (STEAM) approach underlines the integration of abstract mathematical ideas to find concrete solutions and evidence through art (Yakman & Lee, 2012). Plans and designs drawn in the FCL creation zone can be associated with the art component of STEAM.

Learning Zone 4. Zone to “Present”

At a Future Classroom Lab, students will need a range of different tools and skills to present, communicate and receive feedback on (MoNE, 2020). The presentation and distribution of student work is a factor in the planning of lessons to be able to add a communicative dimension to students’ work. The design and layout for interactive presentations and a dedicated space support the sharing, interaction, and feedback of results. Online publishing and sharing are also encouraging. It will help students become familiar with using online resources as well as familiarize them with eSafety principles (MoNE, 2020).

It is also important to present the products produced as a result of the projects in STEAM education. Projects can be shared with people and institutions with similar problems and further studies can be done jointly. For example, scientists from Finland (Thuneberg, Salmi &Fenyvesi, 2017) present the mobile interactive math exhibitions “The Art of Mathematics” to students as a good example. Considering that it is difficult to make face-to-face presentations during the pandemic, presenting projects in a virtual and interactive environment can be considered as a good alternative to face-to-face presentations.

Learning Zone 5. Zone to “Develop”

The zone to “develop” is a field for informal learning and self-reflection. In this zone, students can work independently at their own pace (MoNE, 2020). In addition, students can perform informal learning by focusing on their own interests outside formal classroom arrangements at school and at home. By offering ways to strengthen self-directed learning, the school supports learners’ self-reflection and metacognitive skills. The school encourages students towards lifelong learning by defining and validating informal learning (MoNE, 2020).

Although teamwork and cooperation are important in STEAM projects, students do not have to constantly work with a group in the progress of the project. Students can also work alone to contribute to certain parts of the project at their own pace and then share their findings with their groupmates. During these studies, student learning can be supported by informal learning outside of school. There are many STEAM projects targeting and demonstrating this. One of them is a STEAM program developed in Australia. In this project, a training program was developed in which teachers included in STEAM programs on the history and culture of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island indigenous people, and the economic and cultural impact of Australia and Asia (Taylor, 2018).

Learning Zone 6. Zone to “Exchange”

Collaborating with others in Future Classroom Lab learning zones is essential for both students and teachers (MoNE, 2020). Teamwork is carried out throughout research, production and presentation activities. The sense of belonging within the group, the sharing of responsibilities and the decision-making process determine the quality of cooperation. ICT helps to create rich ways of communication and collaboration. In 21st century classrooms, collaboration is not limited to face-to-face and simultaneous communication. In addition, online and asynchronous conversations can take place (MoNE, 2020).

STEAM education also supports working collaboratively, which is considered as a learning zone in FCL. STEAM education, as in FCL, not only provides an environment for students’ collaboration but also provides a creative design space for teachers from different disciplines to collaborate in developing integrated projects (Taylor, 2018). In many countries, teachers from different branches collaborate to prepare STEAM programs and curricula. Besides, many countries mention the ability to cooperate in their education programs. For example, in Australia, STEAM education has become a focal point for nationwide innovation and entrepreneurial funding, including industry-sponsored initiatives (e.g., the 21st Century Minds: Acceleration Programme). This program aims to prepare children with many skills, including the ability to “think smart and creatively, solve problems, persist and take risks, have strong digital skills and the knowledge to cooperate effectively” for future jobs (Pricewaterhouse Coopers, 2016).

As mentioned in 2023 Education Vision, Turkey gives importance to interdisciplinary studies and projects.Interdisciplinary studies in Turkey are applied on a large scale national and international projects. In this process, it is of great importance that the targets included in the 2023 Education Vision find a place in the field (MoNE, 2018). The objectives that encourage and support the construction of interdisciplinary projects are stated in the 2023 Education Vision as follows:

“One of the basic goals of education systems in advanced countries is to equip students at an early age with an awareness of ways to formulate innovative solutions to problems they observe in their environments. Through an interdisciplinary approach, different disciplines, such as mathematics, natural sciences, social sciences, and the visual arts, will be integrated with English language education so that students can use the foreign language in various fields. [Moreover,] face-to-face workshop training sessions will be organized for teachers of mathematics, natural sciences, physics, chemistry, biology, Turkish, social sciences, and geography in subjects such as interdisciplinary project development, 3D design, and smart devices.” (pp. 68-75).

Conclusion

STEAM Education, which is an interdisciplinary approach to education that includes the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics and aims to work by connecting these fields, can be associated with the six learning zones of Future Classroom Lab Project, namely, zone to “Interact, Exchange, Investigate, Create, Present and Develop”. This provides an opportunity for STEAM education formations in FCL classes. The interdisciplinary studies and projects mentioned in the 2023 Education Vision are deemed very valuable and important by the Ministry of National Education(MoNE, 2018). The Ministry supports these projects and initiatives with both project-specific consultancy and project-wide training, workshops, and face-to-face and online seminars.

References

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Yakman, G., & Lee, H. (2012). Exploring the exemplary STEAM education in the U.S. practical educational framework for Korea. Journal of The Korean Association for Science Education, 32(6), 1072–1086.

To cite this report:

Ministry of National Education [MoNE]. (2020). STEAM Education in Flexible Learning Zones. Ministry of National Education – General Directorate of Innovation and Educational Technologies, Ankara, Turkey. Retrieved from https://edusimsteam.eba.gov.tr/?p=712&lang=en