A Critical Review of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics)

Laura Colucci-Gray, Pamela Burnard, Donald Gray, Carolyn Cooke

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


“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 that characterize STEM: an alignment of disciplinary areas that allegedly have the 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 that 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 role—and 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 that 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 respond to a variety of policy directions and cultural traditions. The outcome is a multilayered and textured account of the limitations and possibilities for and relational understandings of STEAM education.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOxford Research Encyclopedia of Education
EditorsPatricia Thomson
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages26
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • STEM
  • creativity
  • disciplinary configurations
  • boundary object
  • debate
  • arts
  • science


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