Harvard Graduate School of Education | Project Zero

Agency by Design

Website: http://makingthinkinghappen.wordpress.com
Twitter: @agencybydesign
Instagram: @agencybydesign

Educational initiatives that emphasize making, design, engineering, and tinkering are gaining traction in schools and organizations across the country. While making-centered learning is not a new concept, recent and emerging trends suggest a new kind of hands-on pedagogy— a pedagogy that encourages community and collaboration (a do-it-together mentality), distributed teaching, boundary crossing, and a responsive and flexible pedagogy. 

Supported by the Abundance Foundation, Agency by Design (AbD) is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences. Our work is guided by three questions: How do maker educators and leaders in the field think about the benefits and outcomes of maker learning experiences? What are some of the key characteristics of environments in which maker-centered learning thrives? What kinds of educational interventions can we develop that support thoughtful reflection around maker-centered learning and the made dimension of our world?

AbD is exploring these questions through multiple strands of research. To address the first two questions around benefits and characteristics of maker learning, our research team has been interviewing maker education thought leaders and conducting site visits to classrooms, schools, and organizations across the country that offer maker-centered learning experiences. In addition, we have been conducting reviews of current and relevant literature to situate the trend of maker education within broader sociocultural contexts. 

Our third question emerged from an early interest in the intersection of design thinking, maker education and Project Zero frameworks. Drawing on interviews, site visits, and observations of student work, AbD formed the hypothesis that fostering young people’s sensitivity to the designed dimension of the world may be a powerful way to increase their sense of agency. To explore this hypothesis, AbD has begun a program of action research with prek – 12 educators in Oakland, California, to develop instructional strategies and tools to help students think critically about the design of objects, ideas, and systems.  

Through investigations across these three strands of research, AbD hopes to contribute to a growing understanding of the educational side of maker and the kinds of values, skills, and capacities believed to be nurtured by maker-centered learning

Funding: The Abundance Foundation

Project Zero staff:
    Shari Tishman
    Edward P. Clapp
    Jessica Ross
    Jen Ryan

Graduate Student Assistants:
    Cami Gordon
    Chandell Stone

Abundance Foundation Liaison: Wendy Donner

Participating Schools: Claremont Middle School, Emerson Elementary School, North Oakland Community Charter School, Oakland International High School, Oakland Technical High School, Park Day School