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Project Descriptions

Collaborative Research: The Notion of Failure and Maker Programming for Youth: Supporting the Professional Development, Reflection, and Learning of Informal Educators

January 1, 2021 - December 31, 2023 | Public Programs, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks

While there is increased interest in youth-centered maker programs in informal educational contexts, scarce research-informed professional development exist that focus on how informal educators do or should plan and handle ongoing, just-in-time support during moments of failure. Prior research supports the important role of failure in maker programming to increase learning, resilience and other noncognitive skills such as self-efficacy and independence. The objective of this project is to address this gap through adapting, implementing, and refining a professional development program for informal educators to productively attend, interpret, and respond to youths’ experiences with failure while engaged in maker programs in informal learning contexts. In the first two years of the project, the research team will work closely with six partners to implement and refine the professional development model: The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Bakken Museum, Montshire Museum of Science, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Thinkery, and Amazeum Children’s Museum. In the last year of the project, the team will scale-up the professional development model through partnering with an additional nine institutions implementing maker programming for youth. The professional development consists of two models. In the first model, we support one to two lead facilitators at each partnering institution through an initial three-day workshop and ongoing support meetings. In the second model, the lead facilitators support other informal educators at their institution implementing making programs for youth. This project will enhance the infrastructure for research and education as collaborations and professional learning communities will be established among a variety of informal learning institutions. The project will also demonstrate a link between research and institutional and societal benefits through shifting the connotation and perceptions of failure to be valued for its educational potential and to empower informal educators to support discomfort and struggle throughout maker programs with youth.

The three goals of this collaborative project are to (a) advance the field of informal education through a research-based professional development program specific to youths’ failures during maker programs; (b) support shifts in informal educators’ facilitation practices and perspectives around youth’s failure experiences, and (c) investigate the effects of the professional development on youths’ resilience and failure mindset. The iterative nature of this project will be informed by the collection and analysis of video data of professional development sessions and informal educators facilitating maker programs, reflective journaling, surveys regarding the professional development, and pre-post surveys from youth engaged in the maker programs. Dissemination will address multiple stakeholders, including informal educators, program developers, evaluators, researchers, and public audiences.

This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.


Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005860
Funding Amount: $255,070
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005927
Funding Amount: $1,454,326


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    Principal Investigator
    Indiana University
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    Principal Investigator
    SUNY at Binghamton
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    Co-Principal Investigator
    Minneapolis Institute of Art
  • Discipline: Art, music, and theater | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Technology
    Audience: Elementary School Children (6-10) | Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
    Environment Type: Public Programs | Making and Tinkering Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks | Professional Development and Workshops

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