Developing a Rhetoric of Aesthetics: The (Often) Forgotten Link Between Art and STEM

Rohit Mehta, Sarah Keenan, Danah Henriksen, Punya Mishra

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Beauty, curiosity, wonder, awe, and the inherent pleasure of figuring things out are aesthetic attributes that scientists, mathematicians, and engineers often speak about when describing their motivations for engaging in STEM. In contrast, despite the robustness of evidence for the importance of the aesthetic, most arguments for learning science have focused on instrumental and functional reasons. Such an approach positions science as a tool, the value of which lies in its usefulness to externally constructed projects and goals. In this manner it trivializes the personal, affective, and humanistic nature of engaging with science and scientific ideas. In this chapter, we provide examples and an argument for a rhetoric of aesthetics that can be incorporated in a teaching. Building on a series of studies we have conducted, we offer a threefold, fractal framework that helps us integrate the aesthetic in STEM learning. The three frames in this rhetoric reside on the intersections of arts and STEM and can be seen as fuel to designing STEAM pedagogies. Finally, to move this framework into educational settings, we share several examples of how we have used this rhetoric to guide teacher professional development for STEM educators, by focusing their thinking and teaching on a more aesthetically driven STEAM view of learning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSTEAM Education
Subtitle of host publicationTheory and Practice
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9783030040031
ISBN (Print)9783030040024
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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