Practices Promoting Creative Thinking Skills at the Intersections of the Arts, STEM, and STEAM

The Innovation Collaborative provides information about how effective intersections of the arts, sciences, humanities, engineering, math, and technology can reinforce innovative thinking. To that end, it identifies, conducts, and disseminates research in support of teaching and learning.

The Collaborative encourages networking and collaboration across disciplines, institutions, and individuals in both in-school (formal) and out-of-school (informal) settings, and the intersections of the two.

A hallmark of the Collaborative is its higher-level thinking skills, developed by a team of experts from the arts, sciences, and humanities in concert with the Collaborative’s Thought Leaders. These thinking skills are Observing and asking questions; Defining/clarifying a problem; Acquiring and evaluating necessary knowledge; Generating ideas; Changing perspectives; Abstracting; Transforming; Synthesizing; Comparing and contrasting; Visually analyzing; Evaluating ideas or statements; Developing the solution; Collaborating; Determining relevance to one’s own life; Persisting; Creating; Communicating; and Responding.

The skills are designed to help promote effective cognition from the earliest grades in order to enhance learning and, ultimately, workforce competency. They have been studied in classroom settings and validated by research, and are continuously updated based on the Collaborative’s research findings.

The Innovation Collaborative is in its sixth year of a multiyear national research project to determine the most effective practices that promote important workforce-related creative and innovative thinking skills at the intersections of the arts, STEM, and the humanities (STEAM) in K–12 learning settings. The research will help provide a strong foundation for the STEAM movement.

This research project initially conducted an extensive study of top lessons addressing the arts and sciences from teachers across the country. The teachers submitting the top-10 identified lessons were named Innovation Fellows. The Fellows are now the frontline teachers conducting this research and helping develop further studies. They are joined by other selected teachers from a variety of disciplines from across the US.

A number of STEAM experiences have been developed by the Collaborative’s Innovation Fellows. These experiences and lessons have been researched and validated, making them exemplar STEAM experiences. Six exemplar experiences/lessons may be freely downloaded from the Collaborative’s website: “Integrating with Ipcar” (K–2); “Creating an Acoustical Garden” (K–6); “Art in Motion” (6–8); “Bio Art – Painting at the Cellular Level with Bacteria” (6); “Cellular Ceramics” (7); and “Art Bots and Kinetic Toys” (9–12).

The Innovation Collaborative is also studying skills criteria and rubrics in a variety of classroom settings. A Thinking Skills Rubric and a Content Skills Rubric for Students and Lessons have been developed and improved over a number of years. They reflect continuous input from the Collaborative’s Research Thought Leaders (leading researchers in the arts, STEM, creativity, and neuroscience); from its Innovation Fellows (top STEAM teachers nationally who were identified in the first round of research); from representatives on the Collaborative’s Board and Advisory Council, representing leading national education organizations; and from teachers and administrators. Both STEAM rubrics are free to download from the Collaborative’s website.

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