STEM Or STEAM: Is Art A Necessary Integration?


Written by Amanda Longhenry


STEAM education, an acronym for the integration of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, has gained attention as a means to cultivate well-rounded students equipped with both technical and creative skills. STEAM aims to develop students’ skills and abilities to solve real-world problems, collaborate with others, and express their creativity. However, critics raise valid concerns, such as the dilution of traditional technical and scientific concepts. While STEAM education holds promise, it is important to address these critiques to ensure its effective implementation and promote equitable access to high-quality programs.

Supporting Arguments:

Inquiry-Based Learning

Many have used the integration of the arts in a variety of technological fields to promote inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning encourages students to “arrive at an understanding of concepts by themselves” (Queen’s University) using their teachers as a guide. Students are encouraged to ask questions and delve deeper into the topic through their own curiosity. Ai et al. (2008) uses this following diagram to illustrate the stages of inquiry-based learning:


The application of inquiry-based learning has several benefits. Here are just a few:

  • Creativity and innovation: By seeking answers, students are motivated to pursue alternative perspectives and creative ideas.
  • Active engagement: Passive learning, such as simply listening to information and taking notes, is not as effective as active participation which increases the likelihood that students will understand and retain the new information. 
  • Collaboration: Upon delving into a new concept, students are encouraged to share ideas and refine their understanding by articulating their ideas and actively listening to their peers.

Interdisciplinary Learning

STEAM promotes interdisciplinary thinking by breaking the barriers between these subjects and instead connects them. By linking these subjects, students can see how they relate to one another and how they can be applied together to real-world scenarios. Such as the “use coding, robotics, and music to create interactive musical instruments that demonstrate scientific concepts and artistic principles,” (LinkedIn). 

Additionally, this mode of learning creates an inclusive learning environment. Specifically, instead of using strictly the right side of the brain - which is responsible for reasoning and problem solving - students will engage with both sides of the brain.

Encouragement of More Women* To Enter Technical Fields

STEM fields continue to be heavily male-dominated. Many supporters believe that the integration of arts in STEM will encourage more women to pursue these scientific and technical fields. Because STEAM creates an inclusive learning environment, women may feel more welcome to share their ideas and actively participate. Eric Klopfer, director of MIT’s Scheller Teacher Education Program, explains that converting STEM into STEAM “makes STEM feel more playful, more creative and expressive and opens the domain in terms of appeal to a much broader range of people,” including women (The Journal).

Critics’ Arguments:

Dilution of the Technical/Scientific Concepts

Some critics believe that the integration of arts in STEM subjects will dilute the focus on technical skills. Gary S. May, a critic of STEAM, argues that “when taken too far, [adding arts] leads to the generic idea of a well-rounded education, which dilutes the essential need and focus for STEM,” (InsideHigherEd). May deepens his argument by referencing a study which shows that 40% of companies continue to encounter a situation where a minimum of 50% of their entry-level job candidates lack fundamental STEM skills. Because of this statistic, May believes that “We cannot afford to be distracted” by the integration of arts as it will negatively impact “America’s commitment to an innovation economy.”

Resource Allocation

STEAM critics raise the concern that incorporating arts and humanities into the curriculum may require additional resources that could be better used to enhance STEM education directly. For example, integrating arts may require students to meet a minimum of arts courses which may cause the school or institution to hire more arts teachers or professors. Critics believe that this is a waste of resources that should instead be used to advance the STEM education.

Perceived Hierarchy

Lastly, critics believe that if we incorporate arts in STEM, there will be a perceived hierarchy of the subjects in which the STEM subjects are considered more valuable or important than the arts. Instead they advocate for a separate emphasis of arts education to ensure equal recognition and appreciation for the arts as an essential part of a well-rounded education rather than mixing the two; an equal but separate education.


Most agree that regardless if arts should be integrated in STEM or not, arts has its own importance. At TUEX Education has tutors that teach and students looking for a variety of subjects from arts, science, law, and fitness.

*We understand that this term is not inclusive. However, our understanding of “woman” is anyone who identifies themselves as a woman.


Ai, R., Bhatt, M., Chevrier, S., Ciccarelli, R., Grady, R., Kumari, V., … Wong, H. (2008). Choose your own inquiry. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.