This partnership project seeks to address the assessment needs of maker (sometimes called tinkering) spaces and relating programs that have opened in recent years in many science and children's museums across the country. (These learning spaces use hands-on and interest-driven experiences, often supported using traditional and current technologies to foster creativity and STEM skills among users.) The relatively new maker movement lacks assessment techniques to understand and improve learning experiences in these spaces. An important goal of the project is to address the assessment needs of these makerspaces in relation to the lack of participation of youth and families from ethnic/racial minority communities and other groups. The project will establish a collaborative network including museum staff engaged in maker programming, educational researchers, and community advisors from to address maker-related assessment needs of this group and the broader museum community.
The project defines making is broadly to encompass the diverse range of maker programming found in museums today, such as FabLab drop-in making, tinkering activities, making-related exhibits, targeted workshops, summer camps, afterschool programs, clubs, challenges, and mobile making initiatives. The project will use project planning and exploration meetings, surveys with museums across the United States, and feedback cycles from project partners to gain insights into the experiences, goals, and requirements of museums. The project's survey, collaborations, and network will help identify a preliminary list of key assessment constructs, as well as the realities of data collection and assessment in their respective maker programs (e.g., the usability, equity, and usefulness of assessment tools). The project will consider a wide range of approaches to assessment that will individual learning experiences, but will also look at learning environments, facilitation, culture/language, and hearing directly from underserved communities on what they value. The project will value learners' perspectives, cultural assets, and language and collaborate with members of marginalized communities who may not be effectively served by museum makerspaces. The project will result in: a report on the assessment needs in the museum maker community; identification of promising approaches to maker assessment and related research (with an emphasis on equity); and a collaborative network of practitioners, researchers, and community who will continue the work.The project will work with and share project resources through a variety of maker communities and publications.
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