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Advancing STEAM Education in Your School

Stage 1: Unfreeze

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What is Unfreeze?

In the Unfreeze stage of Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change, the main focus is to reduce the forces that try to maintain an organization’s behavior at its present level. Since human behavior is established by past observational learning and cultural influences, it is important for members of the organisation to unlearn old beliefs or practices that they were used to. To increase the readiness and motivation to change, members of the organisation need to be able to identify the reason to unfreeze, such as where, when, and why the change is necessary.

Exercises that facilitate the Unfreezing stage

To facilitate the Unfreezing stage in schools, our team has come up with four tools/ exercises:

​1. Assess Readiness in STEAM Education

1. Assess Readiness in STEAM Education

What and Why?

An important step to enable unfreezing is to assess the school’s current situation in implementing STEAM education. Our team has created this tool so that educators can reflect on their schools’ readiness and on STEAM-related action steps moving forward.




We recommend stakeholders within each school to fill out the assessment individually, come together to compare the differences in perspectives, and identify major areas for improvement.


Exercise: Assess Your School's Readiness in STEAM Education


The self-assessment below lists the major components in ensuring successful STEAM offering in a school. Which level do you think your school achieving across these different dimensions?


The levels of progress are denoted as:

  • E = Exploring: The school is beginning to explore the component

  • D = Developing: The school is making efforts to design/plan for the component

  • A = Accomplishing: The school has begun implementing the component

  • P = Practicing: The school has sustained implementation of the component, with observable positive results

2. Rethink Current Practice via Double-Loop Reflection

2. Rethink Current Practice via Double-Loop Reflection

What and Why?


Decision thinking moves between reflection and action. By engaging in the cycle of “observing our previous action, reflecting on what we have done, using that observation to decide how to change our next action, and applying that decision to another action”, we hope to improve our behavior or the norms of our organization. Chris Argyris and Donald Schon described this process as single-loop learning and argued that such a process is only effective in simple systems. This type of thinking creates barriers to make necessary changes because single-loop learning fails to question the assumptions and norms of the system.


Gareth Morgan highlighted the limitations of single-loop thinking by using the example of a household thermostat. A thermostat moves through the single-loop cycle of monitoring the environment for deviation from the set temperature and correcting it. However, using a single loop, it cannot determine if the preset temperature is appropriate for the people in the room. In order words, since it cannot question the established norm, it cannot change its behavior and learn to do its job more effectively. A truly effective contribution to a system would require engaging in a second learning cycle, which is referred as double-loop learning.





Nelda Cambron-McCabe and Janis Dutton proposed that double-loop reflection should contain at least two distinct components: reconsider and reframe. Our team recommends that educators adapt these questions suggested by Cambron-McCabe and Dutton when reflecting on advancing STEAM education in their schools:

Exercise: Rethink Your School's Current Practice via Double-Loop Reflection


According to Nelda Cambron-McCabe and Janis Dutton, double loop reflection requires “reconsider” and “reframe”. Consider adopting these questions when discussing with your fellow educators on how to advance STEAM education in your school:


“Reconsider” refers to the reconsidering of basic assumptions and conclusions and the reasoning that led one to them. Example questions may include:

  • Is this project/initiative appropriate? Who wins and who loses? Is this the right way to do this project?

  • What is the collective view of reality that underlies our choices?

  • What will be the consequences of a new approach?

  • What values are we communicating?


“Reframe” refers to the articulation of new possible guiding ideas and reflection on whether they will expand one’s capabilities. Example questions may include:

  • How else might we approach our project/initiative?

  • Is it the right project, the right goals, and the right objectives?

  • Who decides? Who decides who decides?

  • What are the conditions here that prevent us from taking risks?

  • What images might we adopt for our preferred future and the most appropriate values and actions for us?

  • Why are we doing this? To what end?

  • What do we have to do to enact these images, values, and actions?

​3. Define/Redefine Learning Goals

3. Define/Redefine STEAM Learning Goals

What and Why?


A famous saying goes like this, “If you don’t know exactly where you are headed, then any road will get you there.” According to Grant Wiggins and Jay McTighe, “we (educators) are quick to say what things we like to teach, what activities we will do, and what kinds of resources we will use; but without clarifying the desired results of our teaching, how will we ever know whether our designs are appropriate or arbitrary? How will we distinguish merely interesting learning from effectively learning?” Wiggins and McTighe are amongst many educators and researchers who propose adopting a backward design when designing curriculum, instruction and assessment. Many MIT initiatives, e.g. MIT Technology-Enabled Active Learning Initiative (TEAL) and Conceive-Design-Implement-Operate Initiative (CDIO), also adopts the same learning principle.




Adapting resources from the Portrait of a Graduate initiative (initiated by US non-profit organisations Battelle for Kids and Edleader21), as well as New Vista Designs (Boston-based consulting firm that facilitates the designing of 21st century school programs, we have created the following exercise to assist educators to define the intended learning goals for their schools’ STEAM Education, and ensure that learning experiences design align with these goals:   

Exercise: Define/Redefine STEAM Learning Goals in Your School


1) Discuss & Debate: Along with your fellow educators and stakeholders in the school, discuss the following:

  • What are the hopes, aspirations and dreams that your community has for young people?

  • What are the skills and habits of mind that students need for success in this rapidly changing and complex world?

  • Are our students well prepared to contribute and compete in this global, innovative economy?


2) Review & Analyse: Review the examples shown below of how some US education institutions define the 21st-century learning goals. What do you think about it? What would be most relevant and meaningful to your school and your students?



3) Brainstorm & Design: Brainstorm about the learning goals/ competencies that you believe students from your school should have upon graduation. Prioritize a set of competencies (around 4-6) to form a “Portrait of a Graduate” of your school


4) Adopt & Accelerate: Adopt the Portrait as the key driver of strategic planning of your school, bearing in mind the implications of such design for the learning experiences provided in your school.

​4. Value Stream Mapping on STEAM Offering

4. Value Stream Mapping on STEAM Offering

What and Why?


All organisations exist to create value. Companies exist to create value for its customers and stakeholders, while education exists to create value for students and the society. However, even though value creation is a core purpose that organisations exist, it isn’t always where we spend the bulk of our time and energy.


Initially developed 20+ years ago for the manufacturing industry, lean thinking is a management philosophy to eliminate “waste” within a system without sacrificing productivity. One of the most widely practiced tools within lean management is Value Stream Mapping, which helps teams find and eliminate wasteful activities to streamline operations and improve quality. A Value Stream is a sequence of activities an organisation performs to address a customer’s request. The goal of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) is to map out the current flow of goods, services and information, generate an ideal future state, and put forth a plan to achieve the future state.


The key elements of Value Stream Mapping (VSM) are as follows:

  • Customer Focus: The customer is the most important entity for each organisation. Start with the customer and see what can and should be improved for their benefit.

  • Strategic Level Approach: Focus on the strategic direction and don't be tied up in the weeds.

  • Holistic Organizational View: Most organisations are coalitions of silos. VSM breaks downs the barriers between functional silos to uncover improvement opportunities across the entire value stream.

  • Waste Detection: In all processes, there is waste (i.e. anything that does not add value to the final product). VSM exposes waste in a process and provides the visibility and the opportunity to eliminate it.


Adaptation to lean thinking in the higher education space has grown increasingly popular in the recent decade, and our team believes that such methodology will hugely benefit the K-12 space too, and can be customized to suit the needs of improving STEAM education offering.





We have created the following exercise in hopes that educators can reap the benefits of VSM:


Exercise: Value Stream Mapping (VSM) on Your School's STEAM Offering


Workshop Preparation

  • Define the core process to focus on (e.g. “STEAM learning opportunities offered to students in their 6th grade”)

  • Identify a VSM workshop facilitator (either internal or external) and champion, who will work together to build a workshop charter including:

    • Problem statement

    • Specific goals and deliverables

    • Attendee list

      • Tip: Be sure to include as many relevant stakeholders as possible, including a fair representation of different subject teachers and school administration

    • Logistics: timing, location, deadlines, technology and/or supplies

      • Tip: Post-it notes, flip chart paper and whiteboards are found to be very useful materials when conducting a VSM workshop

  • Ensure that all workshop attendees understand what VSM is, its benefits and how it can be used prior to joining the actual workshop

  • Invite a small group of representatives to do a first pass of the VSM to fill out the steps in their swim lane of the overall process (e.g. “Defining the learning opportunities in their subject that is relevant to STEAM throughout the academic year”)


During the workshop

1. Map out the current state

  • Using post-its and markers, each group (e.g. teachers teaching the same subject) should review and edit the first pass of the VSM done by the representatives


2. Brainstorm and map the future state

  • Each group should present the VSM that they have created and invite everyone to identify problems, issues, misalignments, waste or lost opportunities

3. Identify dependencies across different groups and brainstorm improvement opportunities


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