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“But, What Do You Want Me to Teach?”: Best Practices for Teaching in Educational Makerspaces (RTP)

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session


Tagged Division

Pre-College Engineering Education

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Paper Authors


Avneet Hira Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Avneet Hira is an Assistant Professor in the Human-Centered Engineering Program at Boston College. She received her PhD in Engineering Education and MS in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University, and BE in Aeronautical Engineering from Punjab Engineering College. Her scholarship is motivated by the fundamental question of how engineering and technology can support people in living well in an increasingly engineered world. Her research focuses on affordances of technology, humanistic design, and engineering epistemology to promote purpose and connection in engineering education. In her work, she partners with students and educators (middle school to undergraduate), youth and their families, community organizations, artisans, makers, designers, and technologists. Currently, she is part of a team setting up the Human-Centered Engineering program at Boston College. 

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Chanel Beebe Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Chanel Beebe is an Engineering Education Researcher at Purdue University where her work focusing on broadening participation in engineering and engineering thinking. Her passion lies in empowering communities to solve their own problems using creative pedagogies and engagement strategies. Her research looks at using the engineering design process to address social issues in a way that keeps the design process in the hands of communities that face the social problems.

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Kayla R. Maxey Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Kayla is a doctoral student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. Her research interest includes the influence of informal engineering learning experiences on diverse students’ attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions of engineering, and the relationship between students’ interests and the practices and cultures of engineering. Her current work at the FACE lab is on teaching strategies for K-12 STEM educators integrating engineering design and the development of engineering skills of K-12 learners.

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Morgan M. Hynes Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Dr. Morgan Hynes is an Assistant Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University and Director of the FACE Lab research group at Purdue. In his research, Hynes explores the use of engineering to integrate academic subjects in K-12 classrooms. Specific research interests include design metacognition among learners of all ages; the knowledge base for teaching K-12 STEM through engineering; the relationships among the attitudes, beliefs, motivation, cognitive skills, and engineering skills of K-16 engineering learners; and teaching engineering.

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Makerspaces, a conception of constructionist learning principles that many believe evolved from the likes of shop class, technology education, and Stager’s constructivist learning laboratories, have now become a part of learning environments in schools, libraries, and museums in the United States. Even though dating earlier conceptually, the establishment of Maker Ed by Maker Media in 2012 can be considered a watershed moment in the history of educational Makerspaces. Maker Ed was founded with the aim of transforming education through Making activities. Makerspaces manifest constructionist principles of learning by doing by emphasizing the connection between the Maker and that what is made or the artifact, accommodate individualized learning, support students to feel personally connected to the activities they engage with and have the potential to be lucrative sites for open-ended problem based learning activities. Other reasons of interest in these spaces by the educational community include the community-oriented nature of Making and learning activities, the skills that students can develop using tools and technologies that are being considered essential for the present and future of design and prototyping, and the more elusive goal of raising a STEM-literate citizenry.

It has been half a decade since the launch of Maker Ed, and Makers and proponents of educational Making have conducted research and published opinion pieces on the potential of Makerspaces and the need to establish them in formal educational settings such as schools. It is clear that much of the intention behind this work has been accomplished, given several new Makerspaces being set up in school settings. Now we are faced with the challenge of reaping their claimed educational benefits in schools, and our first line of defense is our ever so brave teachers. In a reflective paper that we published in 2014, we predicted the opportunities and challenges that educational Makerspaces are harbingers of. Since that work, we have instructed more than 1000 students from diverse racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds at several workshops in Makerspace settings across the World. This study presents qualitative participatory work on critical points of reflection experienced by the authors of this paper and our co-instructors from the past four years. The data that comprises the study include written reflections of the 4 authors responding to prompts such as: How do you cater to the different needs and interests of your students? Is there specific equipment that you need in a Makerspace to teach well? What kinds of activities have you conducted that work well for your students, and those that did not?

A conceptual framework is used to situate making practices in three aspects, namely, the people involved, the technological means used, and the activities performed in the setting. From this framework, we discuss critical reflections from the experiences of practicing professionals to scope best practices in the purview of teaching in educational Makerspaces. Here are some excerpts from the reflections: “The diverse experiences and interests of our learners are important and the makerspaces environment supports this”; “I see no “right” means and that this should adapt to the students”; “Choice is important”; “These [technological] means need to adapt to the problem or context students are working in”; and “Students need to continuously feel supported, no matter what they do”

The contributions of this paper are a timely interrogation to understand what it truly means to teach in a Makerspace, best practices for teachers, and a direction for future teacher development in the area of educational Makerspaces.

Hira, A., & Beebe, C., & Maxey, K. R., & Hynes, M. M. (2018, June), “But, What Do You Want Me to Teach?”: Best Practices for Teaching in Educational Makerspaces (RTP) Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29648

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