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Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM as a pedagogical approach

Overview of MCSS resources image credit: A.McKeown 2022

Many of us have only experienced a traditional post-primary schooling system, with subject-based learning, where a standardised pedagogy, is considered as the most efficient and effective opportunities for individual development. Have you ever considered, what other pedagogical methods may exist alongside the current learning system?

Increasingly educators globally are re-imagining learning for our 21st Century context being the Century of the System, (Gawande, 2014). Our world and its challenges have become so complex, that no one discipline or field of knowledge will be able to develop the solutions required and systemic approaches are now needed. Educators are developing pedagogical strategies that reflect the needs of today’s learners and tomorrow’s citizens and leaders now.

Messy - Learning As It Ought To Be

Learning - away from formal environments - can be less structured, without frontiers. It is connected and relatable. It might also be described as non-linear or even messy. Learners might not be labelled by perceived ability in one subject in comparison to another. Learning is broad and the possibilities are endless. Transdisciplinary learning encourages concepts and skills-building across subject areas, rather than studying subjects in isolation. Subjects are distinct, yet interconnected, allowing for a holistic learning experience in which students apply what they're learning in a variety of contexts.

The Importance of Transversal and Transferable Skills

“Transversal skills are increasingly in high demand for learners to successfully adapt to changes and to lead meaningful and productive lives.” (2014)

Forms of learning that are intersectional and develop transversal and transferable skills are required for the world that today’s learners are and will live in. Current standardised systems of education have traditionally focused on foundational or specialised knowledge and skills. The relevance and demand for transversal and transferable skills is increasingly recognised for adaptable and agile learners and holistic transformative learning. There is a critical need to support learners with the confidence and competence to address and live with contemporary issues; social, environmental and economic and develop values and approaches that contribute to active engagement with caring for the environment and each other. Indeed, this need is now reflected in SDG 4 - Quality Education and target 4.7

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

What can the arts bring to learning and development?

Encouraging environments that support forms of learning that develop these skills need to be integrated into our formal learning environments, especially at post-primary level. The need to transition away from subject-specific teaching towards facilitating learning is increasing and never before has the gap between education and the needs of society been more apparent. UNESCO (2014) identifed six categories of transversal skills:

  1. Critical and innovative thinking

  2. Interpersonal skills

  3. Intrapersonal skills

  4. Global citizenship

  5. Media and information literacy

  6. Others (Other examples could include problem-solving, communication, teamwork and leadership).

In STEAM education, learning occurs at the intersection of the five fields, Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths (STEAM) transforming how we know and investigate the world. As a pedagogical innovation, the STEAM agenda offers an approach to teaching and learning (McKeown, 2018) ‘that encourages and facilitates unorthodox methods and strategies’ (Rose and Smith, 2011, 8). STEAM projects reflect contemporary interdisciplinary artistic concerns that are not bound by traditional media [or the production of objects] and utilise STEM skills and knowledge (McKeown, 2018).

Utilising the arts places creativity as a fundamental component of learning. It encourages the learner to envision their learning beyond the subject matter itself and to really consider what they might be able to create as an expression of their learning, and how best to communicate it to others.

As a pedagogical discipline, STEAM offers an approach to teaching and learning that encourages and facilitates unorthodox methods and strategies (Rose and Smith, 2011, 8). Learning through a STEAM approach can transform a learner’s perception of how they know and investigate the world. It can also be adapted to suit any age so it plays a valuable role in early learning and development.

Using an arts-led lens in STEM offers an instructional approach that can develop artistic skills to increase the effective application of scientific knowledge into real-world challenges beyond the scientific paradigm. Further, STEAM learning is not just about using the arts to express STEM concepts, but applying a specific pedagogy that develops transversal skills and competencies. Practitioners working with STEAM including ourselves are featured below e.g. Agnes Chavez / STEMarts Lab ( Chris Reina et al MakerMeet Ireland and Nettrice Gaskins / Lesley STEAM

Collage of STEAM learning projects - see references for Image Credits and Practionner details

Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM uses a transdisciplinary, STEAM-based pedagogical approach. Returning to SDG 4, Target 4.7, one of the core missions of the Muinín Catalyst Sustainable STEAM programme is to ensure an arts / design and culture-led approach to learning that is transdisciplinary and transformative. Learning that supports the development of informed citizens, that are systemic, critical and creative thinkers who can apply their knowledge in agile ways that are sensitive, generative and appropriately responsive to context, in relevant and meaningful ways.

This is done through placed-based learning, which enables individuals to experience learning in local, real-life scenarios. Place-based approaches to learning grounded in local communities and contexts are relevant, engaging and inquiry-based. Students gain confidence and competence in affecting change, learning to manage risk, and develop creative, real-world solutions that are eco-socially just and restorative.

The Future is Now.

It is time to prepare today's students for today’s world.

Please get in contact at if you are interested in using our resources with your learners.


Please get in contact at or if you are interested in using our resources with your learners.


Mckeown, A (2018) McKeown, A Tracing the Evolution of an Arts-led Place-based Syllabus for STEAM: The Beautiful Midden Field School Syllabus, in The STEAM revolution: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Humanities and Mathematics - eds De La Garza, A and Travis C, Springer Publishing, NYC USA 2018

Mckeown, A and White, R. (2021) Muinín Catalyst - Exploring Future-ready Teaching and Learning International Journal for Cross-Disciplinary Subjects in Education (IJCDSE), Volume 12, Issue 2, 2021

Mckeown, A and White, R. (2020) Muinín Catalyst Towards a Place-based STEAM Design Thinking Curriculum for Transition Year AMPS, Architecture_MPS, PARADE, Manchester School of Architecture (University of Manchester / Manchester Metropolitan University) 02-04 December, 2020

Rose, C and Smith, B. Workshop: Bridging STEM to STEAM: Developing New Frameworks for Art/Science Pedagogy, Rhode Island School of Design, Rhode Island, 2011

STEAM learning Collage

  1. Nettrice Gaskins, Storytelling Interface Pt 3 - Interactive Music Poster

  2. Chris Reina, Maker Meet Ireland - Paper Circuits workshops

  3. Agnes Chavez, STEMarts Lab Space Messengers

UNESCO Bankok (Asia-Pacific Regional Bureau for Education (2014) Education Policy Brief (Vol 2): Skills for Holistic Human Development, Nov 2014

UN 2022 Knowledge platform, available here

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