_Making Space for All

School “makerspaces” have enormous potential to foster learning and engagement, but need to be inclusive of all learners.

_Katelyn Alderfer

Alderfer is a doctoral candidate in the School of Education.

_Brian Smith

Smith is a professor in the School of Education.

_Youngmoo Kim

Kim is an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, assistant dean of media technologies and director of the Music and Entertainment Technology Lab.

_Kareem Edouard

Edouard is a senior research fellow of learning innovation in the Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies (ExCITe) Center.

Drexel researchers in the ExCITe Center’s Learning Innovation initiative have completed a first-of-its-kind, year-long investigation visiting 30 K–12 education “makerspaces” across eight metropolitan regions to study what approaches work best, and for whom.

Through in-depth interviews with and observation of students, instructors and leadership, the researchers found encouraging indicators for increased student engagement in school through makerspace participation and development of a “maker mindset” that focuses on creation, iteration, agency and collaboration.

They also found room for improvement. One insight was the discovery of troubling inclusivity indicators, particularly regarding gender. Student participation rates change between grade school, where participation is nearly equal by gender, and high school, where male students outnumber females by a factor of three. In addition, program leaders and instructors remain predominantly male.

Other highlights from the report:

The culture of a makerspace has a direct impact on student learning. Rather than choosing equipment or specific projects, designers of new makerspaces should first consider the kind of learning culture they seek to create.

Makerspaces can positively impact English language learners and students facing disciplinary issues, but the language and imagery used for recruitment is often gendered and noninclusive, affecting who participates.

Within school makerspaces, hosting unstructured open hours outside of class encourages greater exploration, positive risk-taking and collaboration for a wider range of students.

Students frequently use skills learned in makerspaces to improve other aspects of the school and local community, such as student government activities, classroom maintenance and sports facilities.