Negotiating Engagement in STEAM Education
Practitioners and scholars have begun to recognize the need to fracture disciplinary boundaries in K-12 learning settings in favor of more holistic approaches. STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics) education, in particular, has been proposed as a means to reimagine science education based on youths’ widespread interest in art, design, and making, and the encouragement of multiple forms of expression in these endeavors. This dissertation documents the development of an art-science program and research on the experiences of middle-school-aged participants, who predominantly identified as Latinx and bilingual, in three papers. In the first paper, I used design-based research to investigate how an art-science program evolved to support youths’ interests and disciplinary integration from a teacher perspective. A cross-case analysis of two program iterations yielded two design guidelines. First, it is important to create opportunities for youth to engage in STEAM education in ways that allow them to build on their interests while also cultivating desirable social images. Second, ongoing teacher collaboration and foregrounding youths’ development of project artifacts supported disciplinary integration. In the second paper, I draw on a longitudinal case study approach to investigate two focal youths’ enactment of art-science thinking practices—or practices common to artistic and scientific fields—over three program iterations. Results highlight three insights: (1) the program’s approach to disciplinary integration played a key role in which art-science thinking practices youth enacted and how; (2) the incorporation of multiple STEAM disciplines encouraged youth to build on a wide range of interests; and (3) developing artifacts supported youth to engage in STEAM projects while maintaining their social standing. The third paper is a practitioner study documenting the program design and outcomes regarding case study youths’ perspectives of art-science thinking practices. Results demonstrate how STEAM education can support youth to appreciate imagining and creating in the context of science. I conclude with the program’s successes and challenges and implications for in- and out-of-school STEAM practitioners and program designers.