June 24, 2017
June 24, 2017
June 28, 2017
Design in Engineering Education
For engineering students, the culture and development of university makerspaces is highly driven by tensions of independence and connectedness between and among students and faculty. These tensions are a result of the power dynamics and perceptions pertaining to engineering students’ relationships with those of authority, such as faculty and other engineering students. While makerspaces seek to foster a feeling of autonomy and create an educational environment that inspires creativity and collaboration, there remain underlying tensions that constrain students’ abilities to take full advantage of the resources that are available to them. Such tensions and their impacts are not easily measured through quantitative research methods. This study used ethnographic methods of participant observation as well as unstructured and semi-structured interviews over the course of two years in university makerspaces at a large comprehensive public East coast university in order to investigate the educational tensions that characterize university makerspaces for engineering students. To do so, we trained one graduate researcher and two undergraduate researchers in ethnographic methods and analyzed their field notes and transcripts over the span of two years through qualitative processes of inductive analysis. For this paper, we examined patterns and themes related to independence and connectedness as it corresponded to engineering students’ relationships with other students and faculty. This research introduces the emerging themes regarding how students negotiate tensions of independence and connectedness with faculty and other engineering students in and around makerspaces through managing strategies of delegating tasks, maintaining accountability, reframing alliances, choosing connection as preferred operational mode, and segmenting behaviors. Further, our analysis reveals how these tensions emerge between faculty and students to create an engineering identity for the students. Finally, we frame the different meanings of independence and connectedness in university makerspace cultures and discuss the implications for the design of makerspaces that cultivate educational experiences that enable students to successfully manage these tensions.
Tomko, M., & Linsey, J. S., & Nagel, R. L., & Watkins, J. D., & Aleman, M. W. (2017, June), Negotiating Tensions of Autonomy and Connection in Makerspace Cultures: A Qualitative Examination of a University's Makerspaces Paper presented at 2017 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Columbus, Ohio. https://peer.asee.org/28699
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