Connecting MakerSpaces with Schools: Findings from the STEMLiMS project could help in supporting young people to connect the personal interest-driven work that they engage in at Makerspaces with the more formalized demands of STEM learning in school. As highlighted on informalscience.org, the Investigating STEM Literacies in MakerSpaces (STEMLiMS) (NSF DRL#1422532) project is a 3-year ethnographic and design-based research study that seeks to document and support people’s use of representations in different kinds of makerspaces. Researchers from TERC and Tufts University are also designing supports for youth to connect what they do in makerspaces to academic disciplines. The project team believes that “schools and informal spaces have much to learn from each other, and a focus on literacies, or the ways in which people use representations, is a promising way to help them.”
Assessing What Happens in MakerSpaces: Informalscience.org also reports on a May 2016 discussion among researchers and practitioners who are interested in the study of making as learning. The discussion, sponsored by the American Educational Research Association (AERA), focused on measurement and assessment; equity; cultural connections; multiple settings and pathways; and facilitation and professional development. The measurement group arrived at the following takeaways for this early stage of investigation and opportunity in assessing what happens in Maker spaces:
- “Don’t narrow what counts as making. The definition of learning in making and tinkering should be broad enough to include participation itself (don’t limit to the construction of material 3-D objects, e g.)
- Be aware of and attentive to the institutional politics of assessment. The expectation that projects can’t be anything less than transformational can be counterproductive. Learning is hard, takes time and incremental progress is important.
- Don’t push particular constructs or approaches or try to reify new assessment techniques at this stage in the maker movement’s development. As some things are still ill-defined we have the rare opportunity to potentially create a new assessment language for making.”