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  • Writer's pictureCat Orias

How STEM/STEAM Instruction Differs From Traditional Teaching Methods

STEM and STEAM instruction have become more popular in recent years, and for good reason. These teaching methods focus on integrating science, technology, engineering, art, and math into the classroom. But what exactly makes STEM and STEAM instruction different from traditional teaching methods?

Here are five key ways STEM and STEAM instruction differ from traditional teaching methods:

1. STEM and STEAM instruction focus on hands-on learning.

2. STEM and STEAM instruction emphasize creativity and innovation.

3. STEM and STEAM instruction encourage collaboration and teamwork.

4. STEM and STEAM instruction are problem-based learning models.

5. STEM and STEAM instruction are multimodal learning environments.

What Is STEM/STEAM and Traditional Teaching?

So, what is the difference between STEM/STEAM and traditional instruction methods?

STEM/STEAM instruction is based on the idea that disciplines like science, technology, engineering, math and the arts are interconnected and should be taught together. Traditional instruction, on the other hand, separates these subjects into silos and approaches them in a more linear fashion.

Another key difference is that STEM/STEAM encourages creativity and problem solving, while traditional instruction focuses more on rote memorization and test prep. In addition, STEM/STEAM learning environments are typically more hands-on and interactive, while traditional classrooms are often more lecture-driven.

How Are Classroom Structures Different?

One of the key ways that STEM/STEAM instruction differs from traditional teaching methods is in terms of classroom structures. In a traditional classroom, the teacher is in charge and students are typically given tasks to complete individually or in pairs.

In contrast, STEM/STEAM classrooms are often designed like laboratories, with each student working on a project at their own station. This allows for more hands-on learning and collaboration, as students are able to share ideas and learn from one another.

What Differences Are Seen in Pedagogy and Student Engagement?

One of the key differences between STEM/STEAM instruction and traditional teaching methods is the focus on student engagement. In a traditional classroom, the teacher is in control of the lesson and the students are more or less passive recipients of information. However, in a STEM/STEAM classroom, students are encouraged to be active participants in their learning.

This difference is seen in both pedagogy and student engagement. In terms of pedagogy, STEM/STEAM teachers often use methods like inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, and tinkering. This allows students to explore topics in a hands-on way, which leads to a higher level of engagement. Students who are engaged in their learning are more likely to be successful in school.

How Do Standards-Based Instruction and Performance Assessment Differ?

The fourth key difference between STEM/STEAM instruction and traditional teaching methods is the use of standards-based instruction and performance assessment. With traditional teaching methods, students usually need to memorize facts in order to pass tests and assessments. In contrast, with STEM/STEAM instruction, the focus is on understanding concepts and developing the skills needed to solve real-world problems. This means that students are expected to use a variety of tools such as computers, tablets, 3D printers and other technologies to analyze data and create solutions. They are also evaluated not just on how well they recall facts, but on how effectively they apply their knowledge and skills to solve specific problems.

Why Should Educators Consider Utilizing STEM/STEAM Instruction?

So why should educators consider using STEM/STEAM instruction in the classroom?

First and foremost, STEM/STEAM instruction encourages critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity. This means that students don’t just learn the material—they’re challenged to think beyond the scope of the given lesson and come up with creative solutions to problems.

Next, STEM/STEAM instruction utilizes interactive tools such as robotics and coding to help students learn concepts more effectively. This helps engage even the most disengaged learners who might not be able to keep up with traditional teaching methods.

Finally, this type of instruction allows students to explore their interests and apply their knowledge in real-world scenarios. By utilizing elements of engineering, arts, sciences and mathematics through hands-on projects and interactive activities, students get to experience learning on a whole new level.


Simply put, STEM and STEAM instruction are different from traditional teaching methods in a few key ways. Let's take a look at five of the most important:

1. STEM and STEAM instruction emphasize creativity and innovation.

2. STEM and STEAM instruction focus on real-world applications.

3. STEM and STEAM instruction are hands-on and interactive.

4. STEM and STEAM instruction are collaborative.

5. STEM and STEAM instruction are fun and engaging.

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