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Can Right-Brained Learners Find A Place In A STEAM Field?

By Laurie Jo Miller Farr

Many people are familiar with the right-brain/left-brain theory that hypothesizes that each side of the brain has a function; one side of our brain is dominant over the other in determining personality, thoughts, and behavior. Perhaps you've heard it said that a person who is a left-brained thinker takes a more logical, analytical, and methodical view toward life and learning. A right-brained thinker is said to be more intuitive, thoughtful, and imaginative. 

Does Right-Brain Orientation Exist?

This left-brain and right-brain topic is an interesting theory and a popular—but unproven—one. According to Psychology Today,  the dominant side theory is currently being challenged as "state-of-the-art neuroscientific research is slowly beginning to debunk many age-old neuromyths." 

Connectomics and Neuroimaging

Neuroimaging research suggests that we do actually use both sides of the brain to perform most activities. In the growing field of study called connectomics, neuroscientist researchers are learning that the entire brain works together, using both hemispheres "via finely coordinated communication to optimize cognitive functions and creative capacity," as reported in Psychology Today.

Picking Up STEAM

What does this research mean for students? For sure, the one-room schoolhouse 20th-century mantra of the three R's (reading, writing, arithmetic) has shifted enormously. Within the past decade, an emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) skills for the 21st century has gained enormous traction among educators and students alike. Even more recently, a movement to turn STEM into STEAM has caught on, championed by academics who point out that art and design are critical to a rounded approach that embraces problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity.

Incorporating the Arts

Perhaps right-brain dominance isn't the reason why some of us prefer drawing pretty pictures to drawing conclusions from data. These preferences are as natural as a preference for chocolate or vanilla. Yet, a well-rounded curriculum across all aspects of STEAM that provides both depth and breadth is what many K-12 schools are striving for today. Importantly, the arts in STEAM is an approach, not a separate subject. The STEAM educational approach favors hands-on learning, suggesting that science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics are intertwined, that they're hard-wired in the brain and enormously useful in life. 

Jobs of the Future

STEAM skills are vital and emerging careers require both logical and creative thinkers. Think about a web designer who must strategize the site architecture, conceive page layouts, and code the whole thing. How can a theater group design stage sets without artists that can take a technical approach? The production of television broadcasts, games and music videos incorporates a mix of skills from several components of STEAM. Even self-employed photographers, bloggers and vloggers must have storytelling skills in addition to an ability to interpret analytics for retargeting and maximizing their audience reach. What other jobs can you think of that depend upon all five elements of STEM, including the arts?    

 

 

    

 

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