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Work in Progress - An Equity Bifocals Framework for University Makerspaces

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2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

ERM Technical Session 7: Learning and Research in Makerspaces

Tagged Division

Educational Research and Methods

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Paper Authors


Wendy Roldan University of Washington

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Wendy is a second-year PhD student in Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington studying the development of equitable engineering education. Her work draws from the fields of engineering education, design, and learning sciences.

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Jennifer A. Turns University of Washington

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Jennifer Turns is a Professor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington. She is interested in all aspects of engineering education, including how to support engineering students in reflecting on experience, how to help engineering educators make effective teaching decisions, and the application of ideas from complexity science to the challenges of engineering education.

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The motivation for this work is based on the rapidly growing makerspace movement on university campuses with the simultaneous shift in enrollment of students from underrepresented groups in engineering degrees across the United States. How we conceptualize equity within makerspaces and in the field of engineering education is important as we engage in efforts to attract, retain, and sustain the success of students from non-dominant groups in engineering. But, conceptualizing equity within university makerspaces is an ongoing, large ask. We argue that we must first name the design tensions present in university makerspaces, to best position ourselves toward the design and implementation of equitable interventions in university makerspaces.

We propose an in-progress, practice-facing equity bifocals framework to help the engineering education community conceptualize equity in university makerspaces. We then provide one detailed illustration (using data from our ethnographic fieldwork) that exemplifies how we might use the framework to (a) identify generous and critical interpretations of a makerspace and (b) discuss design tensions.

An equity bifocals framework can help those interested in exploring equity within engineering education to both see more clearly what is going on in university makerspaces (honoring the work through a generative lens) and make sense of the questions we still have to address in the ongoing effort to design equitable makerspaces (proposing future action through a critical lens). We offer this practice-facing framework while being cognizant of existing efforts makerspace practitioners are currently engaging in to promote equity.

If we have (as we do) a goal of proposing ways in which issues of equity might be addressed in makerspaces, it is helpful to first have a framework to guide our efforts. The in-progress, practice-facing equity bifocals framework we introduce in this work could help the engineering education community work from a similar language when discussing equity strategies, decisions, and implications in a university makerspace. We propose that with this practice-facing equity bifocals framework we are better equipped to make more judicious and intentional decisions in the design of university makerspaces as we seek ways of improving spaces to be more equitable.

Roldan, W., & Turns, J. A. (2019, June), Work in Progress - An Equity Bifocals Framework for University Makerspaces Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--33568

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