Integrating the Arts for a More Innovative Future: A Study of Arts Integration in K-5 STEAM Instruction

According to Wynn (2012), students in the US are falling behind in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). These vital disciplines have always been important in academia, but currently there is a global shift from specialization, a linear and logical approach, to “ economy and a society built on the inventive, empathic, big-picture capabilities of...the Conceptual Age” (Pink, 2008). In this way, integration of the arts is an essential component of the strategy to improve education as a whole and solidify the arts as an essential component of the academic experience in the US. In order to help our students to compete for jobs in the 21st Century marketplace, policymakers and educators should take a second look at integrating the arts into STEM instruction (STEAM). Proven to boost academic achievement and support Common Core principles, STEAM expands innovation and creative thinking in STEM fields. In the study the researcher asks, “In what ways do K-5 teachers effectively integrate the arts into STEAM instruction?” To answer this question the researcher designed a research study using an online survey to gather data on K-5 teachers in schools with STEAM programs. Findings showed that educators chose STEM and arts disciplines to integrate based primarily on accessibility to teaching tools and materials and not always on what was best for students and learning. Other student-related factors included students’ understanding of the arts discipline and student motivation.