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Minister for Education welcomes MIC review of STEM Education

Two primary children holding a STEM sign

Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, has welcomed research on STEM and Arts Education which was undertaken by Mary Immaculate College (MIC) academics.

The review examined existing literature on STEM Education to identify a set of effective approaches for addressing STEM and the Arts in early years, primary and post-primary education settings and to collate research on the effectiveness of STEAM interventions in formal and informal education settings. Specifically, the goal was to identify evidence-based approaches that promote arts education in parallel with STEM education and the inclusion of arts as an integral part of STEAM learning.

The review, headed by Dr Aisling Leavy, Head of MIC’s Department of STEM Education, was commissioned by the Department of Education and the Arts Advisory group, a sub-group of the Department’s STEM Education Implementation Advisory Group. The Review comes as part of the STEM Education Policy Statement 2017-2026 which recognises the synergy between STEM and Arts education from early years to post-primary level.

Welcoming the publication of the review, Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD thanked the MIC team for compiling the “comprehensive” review: “This review, while it notes that the linkages between STEM and the Arts education are in the early stages of development at both a national and international level, it acknowledges the benefits of exposure to effective STEM and the Arts education and its potential to provide transformative learning experiences for all our learners. These benefits include the acquisition of the knowledge, skills and dispositions that are required for participation and engagement in today’s society. The review notes that STEM and the Arts education holds endless possibilities but in order to effect change a coordinated approach is required with input across the entire STEM education ecosystem.”

Dr Aisling Leavy, the Head of MIC’s Department of STEM Education and lead researcher of this review, added that a “key priority in Ireland and further afield is to increase knowledge and competence in STEAM subjects thereby fostering essential development of critical understandings, innovation and creativity”.

“We are delighted to contribute to this effort through identification and analysis of best practices in STEAM education at primary and post-primary level. Our work advances the goals of the Department of STEM Education to bring all learners, particular those from diverse and marginalised communities, into contact with STEM. The findings arising from this research provide an opportunity for the Department of STEM Education at MIC to contribute towards improving STEM literacy in schools and also ensures all learners have access to high quality STEM education. It is the hope of the research team that the outcomes of this research will have a positive impact on the learning experiences for all learners in Irish classrooms.”

The research found that most interventions focused on one STEM discipline (science, technology, engineering, or mathematics) combined with one arts-based domain (either visual, performing or musical arts). Most of the studies integrate science with the visual arts at the early years and primary level but at post-primary level, it was primarily the case that science was integrated with dramatic arts at post-primary level. Similarly, it was noted that mathematics was mostly paired with music at post-primary level but was most frequently paired with visual and performing arts at early years and primary education. Finally, technology was mostly combined with musical arts or dance at post-primary level but more often combined with drama at the early years and primary levels. The research team noted that: “These patterns are plausible given the generalist context of early years and primary level, the subject specific nature and teacher specialists found at post-primary, and the diverse educational landscape that is found in a myriad of informal settings.”

The research team consisted of Dr Aisling Leavy, Claire Carroll, Dr Edward Corry, Michelle Fitzpatrick, Dr Miriam Hamilton, Dr Mairéad Hourigan, Gary LaCumber, Rory McGann, and Dr Anne O’Dwyer. The research team has expertise in STEM education and an established track record of working together to implement and disseminate STEM-related research. Arising from their contribution in the School-College partnership with a local STEM-focused school, they have developed, implemented, and published research reporting on several school-based STEAM Education initiatives.

The evidence in this literature review will guide national actions to enhance linkages between STEM and the Arts education which will be set out under the second phase STEM Education Implementation Plan, 2022-2026 which is in the final stages of development.

The STEM and the Arts Advisory Group is committed to recommending actions that enable systemic change to addressing the barriers identified in order to support learner access to effective engagements in relation to STEM and the Arts education.

The review can be found by clicking here.