Re-thinking curricula: STEAM education from early years through to higher education

This project will explore the interaction between STEAM subjects and their inherent creativity to better understand their potential for STEAM teaching and learning across education phases, from early years to higher education. 

STEAM logo for Re-thinking curricula project


Dr Victoria Kinsella

Research background

This project is funded via a Birmingham City University STEAM Fellowship as part of STEAMHouse. 

At present, there are profound differences in language and discourse across phases of education including; the curricula, the role of subject specialisms and fields of research. The overall aim of this project is to foster dialogic research that can bridge phases of education and develop an understanding of STEAM education that best suits the 21st century. 

Research aims

This project has 5 objectives:

  • To host a range of ‘In conversation with’ discussions with academics and practitioners working in STEAM education;
  • Host two intra-active workshops that engage STEAM practitioners, artists, teachers and educators, from early years to higher education, in critical dialogues about the purposes of STEAM education;
  • To develop new understandings of working and thinking beyond monodisciplinarity;
  • To map conceptions of STEAM education from early years to higher education;
  • Consideration of the place and role of creativity in STEAM education.

'In conversation with' series

For the first part of this investigation, I wanted to explore with those working across fields of practice and research what a future orientated philosophy of knowledge is and unpick conceptions of STEAM education. Through several ‘in conversation with’ vlogs I have talked to guest speakers as a form of literature review. I invite you to listen to these vlogs and begin to consider your own concepts of STEAM education.

I offer my sincere gratitude to those who have participated and shared insight: Dr Sarah Frodsham, Alis Oldfield and Sara Middleton, Nancy Evans, Kristof Fenyvesi, Dr Jo Trowsdale and Dr Richard Davies, Alessandro Columbano, Sarah-Jane Crowson, Polly Bell, Dr Carolyn Cooke, Mark Brill and Leap then Look.  

1) ‘In conversation with’ Dr Richard Davies and Dr Jo Trowsdale

Jo is a former Head of Drama and English teacher in schools, Jo moved into Higher Education to work with the late Sir Ken Robinson, developing arts and creative teacher education programmes for specialists and non-specialists at primary and secondary level in teacher education and researching artists in education for almost ten years. From 2002-2011 she led one of the region’s Creative Partnerships programmes, working across education, community and cultural sectors to enable over 160 schools to develop bespoke creative learning innovations at the heart of their school improvement through partnership working. Since 2013 her research interests focus upon the impact of creative and cultural value of an arts and engineering project, The Imagineerium, where she has developed new approaches to measuring creativity in relation to STEAM, as well as a concept of art-making as the site for developing broad educational aims.

Richard was a youth worker and teacher before returning to higher education. Over the last 25 years he has been involved in a number of projects and programmes. He is the Higher Education Research and Development Lead in the Centre for Collaborative Learning at the University of Central Lancashire. His research is primarily in philosophical approaches to educational policy and practice. At the moment, he is working on the development of hybridised curricula - especially drawing together STEM and the arts. He also dabbles in elective home education, informal education and higher education practice.

You can follow Jo and Richard on twitter here: @RichardTaff  @JoTrowsdale

2) ‘In conversation with’ Nancy Evans

It was my great pleasure for this ‘in conversation with’ to be joined by Nancy Evans. Nancy is Director of Learning and Participation for BCMG and has worked with the group since 2000. Nancy studied trumpet at the Royal Northern College of Music and has an MA in Community Music from the University of York. Nancy is passionate about creating opportunities for young people to compose, perform and listen to new music. She is interested in developing the pedagogy and practice of composing with young people.

Further resources on the BCMG website mentioned in this ‘in conversation with’ can be found here:

The project discussed in this ‘in conversation with’ is explored further in a chapter in this bookYou can follow Nancy on twitter @cloudgazing.

3) 'In conversation with’ Dr Kristóf Fenyvesi

It was my great pleasure for this ‘in conversation with’ to be joined by Dr Kristóf Fenyvesi. Kristóf is a researcher of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics), trans- and multidisciplinary learning and contemporary cultural studies at the Finnish Institute for Educational Research, University of Jyväskylä, Finland. He is member of the Research Group for Innovative Learning Environments and the Research Group for Education, Assessment & Learning. He is Community Events Director of the Bridges Organization, the world’s largest education community for the mathematics and the arts. He has been the editor of the annual Bridges conference’s Workshop Paper track and coordinator of the Bridges Public Day since 2011.

In 2014 he became a full member of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts. Since 2016, he has been member of the European Mathematical Society’s Committee for Raising Public Awareness. Between 2013-2017 he served as the chief executive officer of the International Symmetry Association and in 2008 he launched Experience Workshop—Global STEAM Network. He was invited by the European Commission to serve as the STEAM expert evaluator of various H2020 and Erasmus+ projects. His main areas of research are mathematics and art connections in learning; STEAM education; inquiry-based, cooperative, playful and experience-oriented approaches in mathematics education; problem-solving in mathematics, in science and art education; connecting hands-on activities and digital modeling in mathematics, science, art and design education; science and art connections in learning; phenomenon-based, multi- and transdisciplinary learning and co-teaching; inter-, cross-, multi- and transdisciplinary management and trans-curricular leadership in education; interdisciplinary aesthetics and philosophy.

4) ‘In conversation with’ Alessandro Columbano

It was my great pleasure for this ‘in conversation with’ to be joined by Alessandro Columbano Who is a Senior Lecturer at the Birmingham School of Architecture and Design at Birmingham City University. He also co-established and leads the Collaborative Laboratory (Co.LAB) a teaching initiative and organisation within the school that integrates teaching with practice through live projects, staff research/design and external consultancy. Alessandro also works at STEAMhouse one day a week, coordinating industry links and live projects between the University’s academic departments. You can find more information on Co.Lab here

5) ‘In conversation with’ Dr Sarah Frodsham

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined by Dr Sarah Frodsham who is Senior Lecturer in Educational Research and member of the STEAM research group at Oxford Brookes university. You can follow the STEAM education work at Oxford Brookes by following them via @STEAMBrookes and the documents Sarah discusses in the video can be found here.

6) ‘In conversation with’ Sarah-Jane Crowson

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined by Sarah Jane Crowson, who is Scholarship and Enterprise Development Manager at Hereford College of Arts and a PhD Student at Birmingham City University.

You can follow Sarah on twitter at @sarahjfc.

7) ‘In conversation with’ Alis Oldfield and Sara Middleton

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined by Alis Oldfield and Sara Middleton. Alis is lecturer on the BA Art and Design course at Birmingham City University and Sara Middleton is Associate Dean (Marketing, Academic Development, Employability and Enterprise) in the faculty of Arts, Design and Media at Birmingham City University. Both Alis and Sara join me for the in conversation with to discuss Junior STEAM Academy. More information on Junior STEAM Academy can be found here: Junior Steam Academy - Faculty of Arts, Design and Media | Birmingham City University (

8) 'In conversation with’ Polly Bell

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined Polly Bell, who is a PhD Student at Oxford Brookes University. Polly’s doctoral study focuses on exploring the nature of creativity in teaching and learning in primary science and arts.

9) ‘In conversation with’ Dr Carolyn Cooke

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined Dr Carolyn Cooke. Carolyn has worked as a secondary school music teacher, head of music, lecturer in education at the Open University and as a tutor for Aberdeen and Edinburgh University. She currently works for the Open University in Scotland on Early Childhood and Primary Education courses. She has written on a range of music education topics and has recently completed her PhD “‘Troubling’ music education; playing, (re)making and researching differently” (2020). Carolyn is actively writing and presenting in the areas of STEAM education, transdisciplinarity, performativity in research and posthumanism. You can follow Carolyn on twitter via @carolyncooke16

10) ‘In conversation with’ Mark Brill

Steam Scholar Victoria Kinsella is joined Mark Brill who is MA Creativity, Making and Innovation Practice Course Leader, MA/MSc Future Media and BA Digital Marketing Senior Lecturer at Birmingham City University.

Mark Brill brings over 25 years experience in digital channels, creative innovation and emerging technologies. He is a leading innovation strategist working with global brands, start-ups and third sector organisations. Mark’s focus is on the creative application of technology, in which he is researching and developing concepts for the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence. This has led to projects in creative innovation (STEAM Disrupt Lab), music and dementia (Memory Tracks) and sustainable, circular fashion (The Connected Wardrobe). Mark leads Maker Monday, a monthly creative inspiration event that is part of BCU’s STEAMhouse programme. He is also a STEAM Fellow working on an initiative to develop simple, contextual objects called The One Pixel Project.

Workshop 1 : Play and collaboration in art research as a model for teaching

As part of the STEAM fellowship, I invited colleagues to join me in a playful workshop with Leap Then Look. Leap Then Look are artists and researchers who create participatory projects, events and workshops for people of all ages and abilities. Their work centres around interdisciplinary approaches to contemporary art with a particular focus on sculpture, performance and film. Their interactive workshops offer thoughtful spaces for intuitive, collaborative exploration, often using household materials and spaces as tools for making.

Within the workshop participants investigated the potential for play and collaboration through art making. The aim was to prompt thoughtful engagement in practical shared tasks, creating a space for open-ended making, play and exploration. Through these playful interactions we began to question forms of knowledge created in artful engagements.