Resources: Research Snapshots

Selections from recent and open research supporting educational making, fabrication, robotics, programming, STEM/STEM, design, scaling maker education, PBL, pedagogies that support making, and links to research groups.

  • Scaling in FabLearn Denmark – Two reports from a consortium of schools participating in FabLearn Denmark document the progress of a large scale implementation of making and digital fabrication labs across Denmark. There is good research and conclusions about curriculum, assessment, and professional development. 
  • Fulfilling the Maker Promise – This annual report from two organizations, Maker Ed and Digital Promise, features analysis of surveys from American educators about maker education. It includes progress integrating maker activities into curriculum, needs, and identifies areas for growth. 
  • Making and Tinkering: A Review of the Literature – Shirin Vossoughi and Bronwyn Bevan consider “1) what is known about the impact of tinkering and making experiences on school-aged children’s learning (interest in, engagement with and understanding of STEM in particular) 2) the emerging design principles and pedagogies that characterize tinkering and making programs and 3) the specific tensions and possibilities within this movement for equity-oriented teaching and learning.” 
  • Makeology – This two volume series offers research and authoritative articles from top researchers around the world on makerspaces as learning environments and makers as learners.
PBL, pedagogy
  • Edutopia’s roundup of PBL research – “Studies comparing learning outcomes for students taught via project-based learning versus traditional instruction show that when implemented well, PBL increases long-term retention of content, helps students perform as well as or better than traditional learners in high-stakes tests, improves problem-solving and collaboration skills, and improves students’ attitudes towards learning.”
  • Exploring Problem-Based Learning for Middle School Design and Engineering Education in Digital Fabrication Laboratories – Documents both teacher and student practices as students design and collaborate in a fablab.
  • Performance of Students in Project Based Science Classroom – PBL and inquiry-based strategies have been shown to raise student science and math achievement, as in this study of a hands-on science curriculum called Problem-based Science (PBS). “PBS students outscored the national sample on 44% of NAEP test items. This study shows that students participating in a PBS curriculum were prepared for this type of testing. Educators should be encouraged to use inquiry-based approaches such as PBS to implement reform in their schools.” 
  • Flipping the Flipped Classroom – This study found that students who were allowed unstructured time with a scientific simulation before reading the textbook or watching explanatory videos did better on tests than students who read the texts or watched the videos before exploring. 
  • Teaching for meaningful learning: A review of research on inquiry-based and cooperative learning – “Decades of research illustrate the benefits of inquiry-based and cooperative learning to help students develop the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in a rapidly changing world.” 
  • Teaching teachers to integrate design and PBL into math and science – An action research project following elementary teachers who were learning how to integrate design and project-based learning into math and science found significant results: “Their students became active learners and problem solvers. Indeed, their critical thinking skills, as evidenced by their ability to pose problems, seek answers, and test solutions, expanded and extended to other curriculum units. Their confidence increased, as they had to take responsibility for their own learning, becoming capable of researching, and finding answers to questions they posed for themselves. The questions became more complex and interrelated. No longer were curriculum areas isolated; mathematics, reading, writing and science are connected through design. One of the most significant results from units centered on design is the benefit it has for inclusion students or students with special needs. All of the teachers who found that their inclusion students benefited from the experience, in ways they had not from traditional classroom learning activities, realized that the design process enfranchises a variety of learning styles, from the traditional academic instruction to the creative and eclectic.” 
Physical computing, robotics, e-textiles
  • Scratch Research – The Scratch team has collected research about the use of Scratch in education.
  • Searching for Computer Science: Access and Barriers in U.S. K-12 Education – Large scale survey of student, parents, and educators reporting barriers and opportunities for computer science in US schools. 
  • Research – Resources, research on achievement, diversity, and demand for computer science graduates.
  • CSforALL – Supports local efforts in the U.S. to provide computer science education for every child at every grade level. Find funding, policy and implementation frameworks, and research.
  • After the Reboot – Computing Education in UK Schools – Explores the “challenges and issues” facing UK schools after computer science was introduced in all grade levels in 2014. Includes research, case studies, and surveys.
  • Google Education: Computer Science Education Research – Research reports sponsored by Google on computer science in the US. Trends, diversity efforts, community college pathways, perceptions of students and parents, and more.
  • Computing Education Research Blog – A timely and thoughtful summary of emerging research on computer science education by Mark Guzdial, a professor at the University of Michigan.
  • Connected Code: Why Children Need to Learn Programming – This book by Yasmin Kafai and Quinn Burke is a call for coding across the curriculum and for all children. It is a research-based, but very readable explanation of how computing can be seen as a social, participatory form of learning.
Research groups
  • Agency by Design – Harvard Graduate School of Education project investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning.
  • Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab – The Community Robotics, Education and Technology Empowerment Lab (CREATE Lab) explores socially meaningful innovation and deployment of robotic technologies.
  • FabLearn – FabLearn is a project led by Paulo Blikstein at Columbia University Teachers College. It supports digital fabrication and making in K-12 schools through supported labs, research, and conferences.
  • Craft Tech Lab – Mike Eisenberg heads this research group at Colorado University, Boulder interweaving computation and craft materials. Website offers research, resources, and community outreach events.
  • MIT Center for Bits and Atoms – Neil Gershenfeld’s fabrication research lab at MIT.
  • MIT Media Lab Lifelong Kindergarten Group – Mitchel Rensick’s constructionist research group at MIT and the home of the Scratch programming language.
  • The Creativity Labs @ Indiana University – Research group that brings together educators, designers, artists, and learning theorists interested in constructionist and design-based learning. They focus on computational tools that support learning by leveraging youths’ interests in digital culture, design, and making.
  • High-Low Tech group at MIT – An archive of an MIT Media Lab research group that originated many maker technologies including sewable electronics, circuit stickers, and other technology aimed at engaging a diverse audience in designing and engineering.
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