As many of our blog followers may well know, 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-centered 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 dimensions of our world? AbD has been exploring these questions through three strands of research: 1) a review of relevant literature; 2) interviews and site visits; and 3) action research and concept development.
Now is a moment of transition for AbD because we’ve just completed the active research stage of each of these three strands, and we’re now turning our full attention to analysis and writing. To be more specific: after reading scores of maker-related articles and books, we’ve recently wrapped up our literature review strand. We’ve also completed 25 in-depth interviews and site visits with maker educator leaders around the country. Last June we finished up two glorious years of developing ideas and doing action research with educators in the AbD project’s Oakland Learning Community, and we have just recently expanded this learning community—now called the AbDLC—to include 30+ amazing maker educators who are generously experimenting with our materials in their sites.
With our active research stage behind us, we are now spending the next 12 months doing a deep dive into an analysis of the data we’ve collected and writing a variety of publications—including a book. However, we don’t want to wait so long to share our ideas.
In academia—the context in which we work—it can take a while for research findings and related ideas to get published. However, one of the wonderful things that has happened to the AbD team in these last two years is that we have become part of a community. We’ve had the privilege of working with, and learning from, so many amazing makers and educators—our action research partners in Oakland; our partners at the Abundance Foundation; the many educators and thought leaders we have visited and interviewed; other researchers investigating maker education; folks from all over who have reached out to connect with us, both at our home base in Cambridge and on the road at conferences. There’s a sense of immediacy and excitement in being part of this vibrant community of educators, practitioners, and researchers. It feels important to us to share some of our work-in-progress now, rather than wait for our publications to appear in more traditional in-print venues. So, in the maker spirit of put-it-out-there-and-tweak-it-as-you-go, we’ve drafted a short white paper that sums up our findings and ideas so far. The paper is an adaptation of a chapter we were recently invited to write by our friends at the Open Portfolio Project, for a forthcoming volume called Makeology. Thank you, OPP, for providing us with this opportunity.
We look forward to continuing the conversation. Let us know what you think!