Design Thinking Gives STEAM to Teaching: A Framework That Breaks Disciplinary Boundaries

  • Danah HenriksenEmail author
  • Rohit Mehta
  • Swati Mehta


In this chapter, we present a multi-threaded argument to suggest how design thinking can be an excellent framework for developing STEAM education. We note that STEAM is broader than mere arts integration in STEM. It reflects a view of education that is more creative, real-world-driven, and problem- or project-based in nature. To develop learning content and experiences that offer creative, authentic, real-world, and problem- or project-driven focus, teachers need more than an argument—they need a guiding framework. We suggest that design and design thinking are natural areas of interconnection with STEAM, both for learners and teachers. These ideas can be used to frame STEAM-based experiences that are more open, creative, project-based, and real-world-driven. Here, we discuss the nature of the connections between design and STEAM and focus on how teachers can use design thinking practices to help them redesign curriculum to transition from STEM to STEAM.


  1. Bequette, J. W., & Bequette, M. B. (2012). A place for art and design education in the STEM conversation. Art Education, 65(2), 40–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Boy, G. A. (2013). From STEM to STEAM: Toward a human-centered education, creativity & learning thinking. In Proceedings of the 31st European conference on cognitive ergonomics (p. 3). New York: ACM.
  3. Brophy, S., Klein, S., Portsmore, M., & Rogers, C. (2008). Advancing engineering education in P-12 classrooms. Journal of Engineering Education, 97(3), 369–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Buchanan, R. (2001). Design and the new rhetoric: Productive arts in the philosophy of culture. Philosophy and Rhetoric, 34(3), 183–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Caper, R. (1996). Play, experimentation and creativity. The International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 77(5), 859–869.Google Scholar
  6. Cohen, J., McCabe, L., Michelli, N. M., & Pickeral, T. (2009). School climate: Research, policy, practice, and teacher education. Teachers College Record, 111(1), 180–213.Google Scholar
  7. Collins, A., Joseph, D., & Bielaczyc, K. (2004). Design research: Theoretical and methodological issues. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 15–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Connor, A. M., Karmokar, S., & Whittington, C. (2015). From STEM to STEAM: Strategies for enhancing engineering & technology education. International Journal of Engineering Pedagogies, 5(2), 37–47.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Cropley, A. J. (2001). Creativity in education & learning: A guide for teachers and educators. London: Psychology Press.Google Scholar
  10. Cropley, D. H. (2016). Creativity in engineering. In Multidisciplinary contributions to the science of creative thinking (pp. 155–173). Singapore, Singapore: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cross, N. (2001). Designerly ways of knowing: Design discipline versus design science. Design Issues, 17(3), 49–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cross, N. (2011). Design thinking: Understanding how designers think and work. Oxford, UK: Berg.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Darling-Hammond, L. (2001). The challenge of staffing our schools. Educational Leadership, 58(8), 12–17.Google Scholar
  14. Education Closet. (n.d.). What is STEAM? Retrieved from
  15. Feist, G. J. (1998). A meta-analysis of personality in scientific and artistic creativity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 2(4), 290–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fox, J., & Fox, R. (2000). Exploring the nature of creativity. Dobuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishers.Google Scholar
  17. Henriksen, D. (2011). We teach who we are: Creativity and trans-disciplinary thinking in the practices of accomplished teachers. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Michigan State University ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.Google Scholar
  18. Henriksen, D., & Mishra, P. (2015). We teach who we are. Teachers College Record, 117(7), 1–46.Google Scholar
  19. Hoadley, C., & Cox, C. (2009). What is design knowledge and how do we teach it? In Educating learning technology designers: Guiding and inspiring creators of innovative educational tools (pp. 19–35). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  20. Jolly, A. (2014). STEM vs. STEAM: Do the arts belong? Education week: Teacher. Retrieved from
  21. Jolly, A. (2016). STEM by design: Strategies and activities for grades 4–8. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Kalantzis, M., & Cope, B. (2010). The teacher as designer: Pedagogy in the new media age. E-Learning and Digital Media, 7(3), 200–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kelley, T., & Kelley, D. (2013). Creative confidence: Unleashing the creative potential within us all. Danvers, MA: Crown Business.Google Scholar
  24. Kim, Y., & Park, N. (2012). Development and application of STEAM teaching model based on the Rube Goldberg’s invention. In Computer science and its applications (pp. 693–698). Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Kirschner, P. A. (2015). Do we need teachers as designers of technology enhanced learning? Instructional Science, 43(2), 309–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2005). Teachers learning technology by design. Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 21(3), 94–102.Google Scholar
  27. Madden, M. E., Baxter, M., Beauchamp, H., Bouchard, K., Habermas, D., Huff, M., et al. (2013). Rethinking STEM education: An interdisciplinary STEAM curriculum. Procedia Computer Science, 20, 541–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Mishra, P., Henriksen, D., & Deep-Play Research Group. (2012). Rethinking technology & creativity in the 21st century: On being in-disciplined. TechTrends, 56(6), 18–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Norton, P., & Hathaway, D. (2015). In search of a teacher education curriculum: Appropriating a design lens to solve problems of practice. Educational Technology, 55(6), 3–14.Google Scholar
  31. Oldham, G. R., & Cummings, A. (1996). Employee creativity: Personal and contextual factors at work. Academy of Management Journal, 39(3), 607–634.Google Scholar
  32. Peppler, K. A. (2013). STEAM-powered computing education: Using e-textiles to integrate the arts and STEM. IEEE Computer, 46(9), 38–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Piro, J. (2010). Going from STEM to STEAM: The arts have a role in America’s future, too. Education Week, 29(24), 28–29.Google Scholar
  34. Plattner, H. (2015). Bootcamp bootleg. Institute of Design at Stanford. Retrieved from
  35. Plattner, H., Meinel, C., & Leifer, L. (Eds.). (2010). Design thinking: Understand–improve–apply. Berlin, Germany: Springer Science & Business Media.Google Scholar
  36. Radziwill, N. M., Benton, M. C., & Moellers, C. (2015). From STEM to STEAM: Reframing what it means to learn. The STEAM Journal, 2(1), 3.Google Scholar
  37. Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of genius: The thirteen thinking tools of the world’s most creative people. Boston: Houghton Miffin.Google Scholar
  38. Sawyer, R. K. (Ed.). (2011). Structure and improvisation in creative teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  39. Schön, D. A. (1983). The reflective practitioner: How professionals think in action. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  40. Shlain, L. (1991). Art & physics: Parallel visions in space, time and light. New York: William Morrow and Company.Google Scholar
  41. Simon, H. A. (1969). The sciences of the artificial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  42. Simonton, D. K. (1988). Scientific genius: A psychology of science. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Smith, S., & Henriksen, D. (2016). Fail again, fail better: Embracing failure as a paradigm for creative learning in the arts. Art Education, 69(2), 6–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Snow, C. P. (1959). The two cultures and the scientific revolution: The Rede lecture. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Watson, A. D. (2015). Design thinking for life. Art Education, 68(3), 12–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Weisman, D. L. (2012). An essay on the art and science of teaching. The American Economist, 57(1), 111–125.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Zhou, J., & George, J. (2001). When job dissatisfaction leads to creativity: Encouraging the expression of voice. Academy of Management Journal, 44(4), 682–696.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arizona State UniversityTempeUSA
  2. 2.California State UniversityFresnoUSA
  3. 3.Michigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

Personalised recommendations