Why the ‘Why’ is Critical for your School’s Steam Learning Program
For most teachers and educational leaders, the STEAM acronym conjures images of robots, computers and scientific equipment. There’s no doubt that these tools can often be found in a classroom engaged in STEAM learning. But it can be far too easy to be blinded by the ‘whats’ and ‘hows’, without considering your vision for ‘why’. Here are three reasons why you should consider YOUR ‘why’ for STEAM before you think about anything else.
Want to see a quick summary? Here it is.
- Your ‘why’ will drive your ‘whats’ and ‘hows’.
- Your purpose indicates your values and beliefs and this is what people are drawn to.
- Your vision helps people see through the pain of change.
1. Your ‘why’ will ultimately drive your ‘whats’ and ‘hows’.
All decisions about which tools to buy, how to design your learning environment and the ways to structure your teaching practice will be dictated by your purpose. For example, it’s very common for schools to spend a large amount on equipment and furniture if their purpose for STEAM is about attracting new students and ‘optics’. I have had a principal tell me once that they purchased large desktop computers because “They look great for parents when they walk in the door”. It’s very easy to judge and criticise that decision as being made purely for optics and how it looks. But you’d have to wonder whether this major purpose is going to help them achieve the goals they have for those tools and whether it will help them realise their ‘why.’
Having a well defined, sound purpose for your STEAM program can lead to sound decisions for the ‘whats’ that enable and equip your students and teachers towards your STEAM goals. It also helps you steer clear of common STEAM pitfalls and dead ends.
2. Your purpose indicates your values and beliefs and this is what people are drawn to.
Simon Sinek’s work around the importance of the ‘why’ focuses on people’s inbuilt connection with values and beliefs. We are much more likely to connect with ‘what we believe’ rather than ‘the things we do’ and he argues, this is what all successful businesses and organisations promote.
He uses the example of Apple in his widely viewed Ted.com talk here. He describes that Apple tell us that their ‘why’ is ‘thinking different,’ and is all about ‘challenging the status quo’. Once we connect with that value, then they promote their ‘whats’: their computers and phones.
This can work the same for the people in our learning communities. If we clearly articulate our reasons for developing a STEAM learning approach, however it ends up looking, and explain the values and beliefs of those reasons, then we will have much more buy in and commitment from all concerned.Knowing and communicating your ‘Why’ of STEAM helps build buy in and commitment. Click To Tweet
3. Your vision helps people see through the pain of change.
Having everyone understanding your ‘why’ will help them adjust to the change (think TIME and EFFORT) that will definitely result. Students, teachers, leaders and parents will all be a part of this adjustment and any change will mean some kind of change in thinking, and also some level of ‘pain’.
It’s like planting new crops. If you want a new harvest then some old crops need to be pulled out, soil needs to be plowed and new seeds planted and watered. If everyone has a clear vision of what this new harvest will bring, then they will understand what this period of change is for, and help them through it.
If you’re interested in exploring your ‘why’ for STEAM learning in more depth, we’d love to help. We support many schools at a leadership level to unpack and articulate their educational values and beliefs and how STEAM can help them see these realised. Contact us here for more information about our STEAM Ready Schools Program, a 1 year ongoing development program, and also our STEAM Certified Trainer Program.