May 7, 2018

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Report Urges Development and Evaluation of Approaches that Integrate STEMM Fields with Arts and Humanities in Higher Education

WASHINGTON --  An emerging body of evidence suggests that integrating STEMM fields (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine) with the humanities and arts in higher education is associated with positive learning outcomes that may help students enter the workforce, live enriched lives, and become active and informed citizens, says a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. Colleges and universities should consider developing, implementing, and evaluating programs that integrate these fields, said the committee that conducted the study and wrote the report.

The report examines an important trend in higher education: programs that intentionally seek to bridge the knowledge and types of inquiry from multiple disciplines – the humanities, arts, sciences, engineering, technology, mathematics, and medicine – within a single course or program of study. Professors in these programs help students make connections among these disciplines in an effort to enrich and improve learning. The movement toward integration is occurring in part as a response to a higher education system that has become increasingly specialized and isolated by discipline. The National Academies were asked to examine evidence on the outcomes of integrative approaches for undergraduate and graduate students. The report also includes a compendium of more than 200 integrated programs and courses at universities and colleges across the U.S.

There is limited but promising evidence that a variety of positive learning outcomes are associated with some integrative approaches – including improved written and oral communication skills, content mastery, problem solving, teamwork skills, ethical decision-making, empathy, and the ability to apply knowledge in real-world settings, the report says. Surveys show that these skills are valued both by employers and by higher education institutions.

“Public discourse has increasingly reflected a tension about whether higher education should be focused primarily on developing practical workforce skills or more broadly on fostering an enlightened, engaged citizenry,” said David Skorton, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and chair of the study committee.  “But evidence suggests that integrating the STEMM fields with the arts and humanities is linked to learning outcomes that support both of those goals, and that serve students well in many aspects of life.”

While the current evidence base limited the committee’s ability to draw causal links between integrative curricula and student learning and career outcomes, it is the committee’s consensus opinion that the available evidence is sufficient to urge institutions to support courses and programs that integrate the arts and humanities with STEMM in higher education – and to evaluate them as they move forward, the report says. 

Individual campus departments and schools, campus-wide teams, and campus-employer collaborators should consider developing and implementing new models and programs that integrate the arts, humanities, and STEMM fields, the report says. Programs should include a strong evaluation component to measure the effect of these programs on student learning and workforce readiness, and these evaluations should include longitudinal studies of student outcomes. Institutions should also work to sustain ongoing integrative efforts that have shown promise.

When implementing integrative curricula, faculty, administrators, and accrediting bodies need to identify and mitigate constraints – such as tenure and promotion criteria, institutional budget models, workloads, accreditation, and funding sources – that hinder integrative efforts in higher education, the report says.

Many of the observations and conclusions made of integration at the undergraduate level apply as well to graduate education, the report notes. Preparing the next generation of graduate students to solve the increasingly complicated problems of the 21st century may necessitate a shift toward integration in graduate research and education. Established integrative fields – for example, bioethics; science, technology, and society; women’s studies; and sustainability -- offer models of successful integrative graduate-level programs.

In addition, the report recommends that professional artistic, humanistic, scientific, and engineering societies work together to build and study integrative pilot programs to support student learning and innovative scholarship at the intersection of disciplines.

The report also recommends a new nationwide effort to collect a robust and multifaceted body of evidence that the broader educational community can apply to specific settings throughout the vast and complex landscape of American higher education. The committee identified two potential ways forward: Institutions with specific expertise in student learning outcomes (for example, schools of education) could take a leadership role in future research endeavors, or several institutions could form a collaboration under the auspices of a national organization (such as a higher education association) to carry out a coordinated research effort.  In addition, institutions and employers should further collaborate to better understand how graduates who participated in courses and programs fare in the workplace throughout their careers.

Further research also should examine how integrative educational models can promote the representation of women and underrepresented minorities in specific areas of the natural sciences, social sciences, technology, engineering, mathematics, medicine, arts, and humanities, and all research efforts should account for whether the benefits of an integrative approach are realized equitably.

The report recognizes the great value of the individual disciplines and does not argue that integrative models should necessarily supplant discipline-based courses or programs. Rather, it stresses the value of integrative approaches in an increasingly complex world. “Given that today’s challenges and opportunities are at once technical and human, responding to them calls for the full range of human knowledge and creativity,” said Skorton.

The study was sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Scientists and Engineers for the Future Fund of the National Academies’ Presidents’ Committee. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine.  The National Academies operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.  For more information, visit http://national-academies.org

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Copies of The Integration of the Humanities and Arts with Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Higher Education: Branches from the Same Tree are available at www.nap.edu or by calling 202-334-3313  or 1-800-624-6242. Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

THE NATIONAL ACADEMIES OF SCIENCES, ENGINEERING, AND MEDICINE

Policy and Global Affairs Division
Board on Higher Education and the Workforce

Committee on Integrating Higher Education in the Arts, Humanities, Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

David J. Skorton1 (chair)
Secretary
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, D.C.

Susan Albertine
Senior Scholar
Office of Quality, Curriculum, and Assessment
Association of American Colleges and Universities
Washington, D.C.

Norman R. Augustine2,3
Chairman and CEO (retired)
Lockheed Martin Corp.
Bethesda, Md.

Laurie Baefsky
Executive Director
Alliance for the Arts in Research Universities, and
Executive Director
ArtsEngine
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Kristin Boudreau
Paris Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Humanities and Department Head
Department of Humanities and Arts
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Mass.

Norman M. Bradburn
Senior Fellow
National Opinion Research Center,
Professor Emeritus
Irving B. Harris Graduate School of Public Policy, Department of Psychology, and Booth School of Business
University of Chicago
Chicago

Al Bunshaft
Senior Vice President
Global Affairs and Workforce of the Future for the Americas
Dassault Systèmes Americas
Waltham, Mass.

Gail D. Burd
Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and Distinguished Professor
University of Arizona
Tucson

Edward G. Derrick
Founding Director (retired)
Center for Science, Policy & Society Programs
American Association for the Advancement of Science
Washington, D.C.

E. Thomas Ewing
Associate Dean
Graduate Studies and Research
College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Blacksburg

J. Benjamin Hurlbut
Associate Professor of Biology and Society
School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University
Tempe

Pamela Jennings
CEO and Chief Imagineer
CONSTRUKS Inc.
Winston-Salem, N.C.

Youngmoo Kim
Director
Expressive and Creative Interactive Technologies Center, and
Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Drexel University
Philadelphia

Robert Martello
Associate Dean for Curriculum and Academic Programs and Professor of the History of Science and Technology
Olin College
Needham, Mass.

Gunalan Nadarajan
Dean and Professor
Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor

Thomas F. Nelson Laird
Associate Professor
Higher Education and Student Affairs Program, and
Director
Center for Postsecondary Research
University of Indiana
Bloomington

Lynn Pasquerella
President
Association of American Colleges and Universities
Washington, D.C.

Suzanna Rose
Founding Associate Provost
Office to Advance Women, Equity and Diversity, and
Professor of Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies
Florida International University
Miami

Bonnie Thornton Dill
Dean
College of Arts and Humanities, and
Professor of Women’s Studies
University of Maryland
College Park

Laura Vosejpka
Founding Dean
College of Sciences and Liberal Arts
Kettering University
Flint, Mich.

Lisa M. Wong
Assistant Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
Arts and Humanities Initiative
Harvard Medical School
Boston

STAFF

Ashley Bear
Study Director

1Member, National Academy of Medicine
2Member, National Academy of Sciences
3Member, National Academy of Engineering