Makerspaces for Education
In my dissertation, I present research examining Makerspaces for education. The concept of a Makerspace has evolved, currently being understood as a space for people to practice the idiomatic term Making, which is to tinker or fabricate. Broadly put, Makerspaces are environments where individuals use technologies to Make physical artifacts within a community of fellow Makers. When I started this work, stakeholders from a variety of backgrounds had begun to discern the educational potential of Makerspaces. Since then, several resources in schools, libraries, educational research, and community spaces have been directed towards realizing this educational potential. However, despite the belief in their potential for learning and development, there is still little systematic research outlining their educational benefits. My research in this dissertation is not just motivated by the lack of systematic research addressing the education potential of Makerspaces, but also by their potential for being venues for students to develop self-sufficiency and practice agency while working on projects that they are personally motivated to be a part of. The work comprises three related studies on the topic of Makerspaces for education. In the first study, I conduct a thematic analysis and synthesize publicly available descriptions of Makerspaces to develop a framework for educational Makerspaces. This framework can serve as a tool to support Makerspace researchers and educators in articulating a purpose and setting up an educational Makerspace aligned with that purpose. In the second study, I analyze narratives of Makers to understand their practices and knowledge in comparison to design using a narrative inquiry approach. Via this study, I make a case for the epistemological legitimacy of Making by proving it similar to design. I also find what makes Making distinct from design, which is it being a venue to realize personal purposes and meaning, adding to its educational potential. Finally, for the third study, I conduct a thematic analysis of narratives from a Maker course and an engineering camp to understand reflective practice and identity formation in the context of educational Makerspaces. This third study can be considered an addition to previous empirical work on connections between engineering, design, identity and reflective practice. The unique contribution of the study is in it being situated in the context of Makerspaces, with implications for how we teach and assess learning in such spaces. The three studies, though distinct, are closely related and inform each other. They are connected via the intent behind them and also their results and contributions. Beyond Makerspaces, my work in this dissertation explores the connections between identity formation, reflective practice, and personal meaning. It also challenges our current understandings of engineering knowledge, exploring it beyond boundaries of formal classrooms. Though the present work is situated in Makerspaces, I consider this work to add to the intersectional conversations of these areas of interest amongst engineering educators and engineering education researchers.
Hynes, Purdue University.
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