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NCSU study: How dance can help put more STEAM in STEM education

STEM education news

Oct, 10 2017, 6:42 AM

You've heard about STEM. What about STEAM?

Participation in dance programs helps students, including those focusing on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), develop skills such as creativity and persistence that benefited them in the classroom and beyond, according to a new study from N.C. State.

The study could provide a boost to what is called STEAM education -  STEAM (STEM + Arts) education.

"Current dance students expressed why the arts are an intentional part of their academic experiences," researchers say in the study, which was published in the journal STEM Education.

"The students drew parallels to problem-solving approaches, team collaboration and data-driven application for the “think and do” ethos that is central to the university. Our findings offer STEM researchers and leaders, along with policy-makers and funding agencies opportunities to reframe the current thinking and approaches central to broadening participation in STEM."

Lead author Fay Cobb Payton, a University Faculty Scholar and professor of information systems and technology, says the researchers "found that study participants feel that they benefit substantially from participating in the arts – in this case, dance – and that, in this context, the arts can be viewed as a structure for fostering inclusion and nurturing persistence, among other things.”

The study was conducted over a year and involved 25 participants who had been involved in on-campus dance companies as undergraduates. Fifteen of the participants were STEM majors, majoring in disciplines such as applied mathematics, engineering and chemistry, according to NCSU's news service.

“Participants also reported that being involved in dance made them more creative in the way they approached problem-solving in the laboratory or classroom,” Payton said.. “For example, the dancers said they were accustomed to working as part of a group, and felt this helped them incorporate multiple viewpoints when tackling academic challenges.”

The study abstract follows:


“STEM Majors, Art Thinkers – Issues of Duality, Rigor and Inclusion”

Authors: Fay Cobb Payton, Ashley White and Tara Mullins, North Carolina State University

Published: Oct. 3, Journal of STEM Education

Abstract: There is a growing interest in STEAM (STEM + Arts) education nationwide. To uncover why these interdisciplinary initiatives can play a significant role in the student educational experience, it is critical to identify characteristics of university students who are participating and enrolled in STEM and arts curricula. We are interested in students actively participating in dance curricula while pursing STEM degrees, and how the students perceive social inclusion given the dominant presence of STEM fields at a predominantly white institution (PWI). We conducted focus groups with undergraduate students from two NC State University dance companies. Focus groups transcripts were coded according to our research questions along with an additional taxonomy including academic emotional engagement, self-efficacy and level of activity. Sub-themes were analyzed using pattern matching and thematic analyses. Data themes included personal, academic and institutional issues, as well as career workforce preparation. Students indicated that rigor, stigma, enhanced problem-solving skills, interdisciplinary thinking, and increased diversity and inclusion opportunities characterize their dance experiences. These experiences highlight aspects of human diversity including ethnicity, race, gender identity and class, and how dance provides a safe zone that is significantly different than experienced in their STEM coursework. Current dance students expressed why the arts are an intentional part of their academic experiences. The students drew parallels to problem-solving approaches, team collaboration and data-driven application for the “think and do” ethos that is central to the university. Our findings offer STEM researchers and leaders, along with policy-makers and funding agencies opportunities to reframe the current thinking and approaches central to broadening participation in STEM.


Learn more about the study at:

http://jstem.org/index.php?journal=JSTEM&page=article&op=view&path%5B%5D=2101





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