Why Making and Makerspaces Matter

What is a makerspace?

A makerspace is a space where you make things. It is a physical place where people gain access to tools, supplies, knowledge and support to pursue projects that interest them. In our makerspace we define making as the process of building physical or virtual artifacts that have value.

Makerspaces are exploding in popularity across K12 and higher education, but with a catch. Some schools are adding new equipment like 3D printers or laser cutters, with the assumption that making something will automagically make their students better learners. This isn’t the case. This session challenges educators and administrators to think about why making matters, and what its role can be within teaching and learning.



Did you attend my session at the 2017 International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference? Click the image or link below to download my slides (PDF, 80MB).

Note: Slide deck currently unavailable.

Why we need makerspaces: A four-part argument

I believe making as an educational practice, and makerspaces as a learning environment, help promote healthy mindsets for learning. A soft spot currently exists with maker education research, and we don’t (yet) have direct evidence to support my claim. But there is solid research to support four concepts that support my overall argument:

  1. Standardized tests have a negative impact on students’ views of what learning is and how it works (Gere, 2014).
  2. This impact manifests itself through habits of perfectionism (American Academy of Pediatrics).
  3. Perfectionism is driven by a fundamental fear of failure, or negative evaluation (Watson & Friend, 1969, Shafique, Gul & Raseed, 2017).
  4. The most effective treatment protocol for fears/phobias is exposure therapy (Kaplan & Tolin, 2011).
Screenshot of cover page for How Making and Makerspace Promote Healthy Mindsets for Learning. Use the link in this image's caption to download the paper.
Download How Making and Makerspaces Promote Healthy Mindsets for Learning

My argument is that if students are entering college with perfectionistic habits and tendencies, leading to a fear of failure that prevents them from establishing a healthy relationship with learning, then what they need is exposure therapy for failure.

A makerspace is based around concepts of iterative design, which require and place value on failure as a key element of project design, development, and revision. In short:

Making as an instructional and learning practice is fundamentally exposure therapy for a fear of failure.

In this workshop

This workshop explores the role that maker education and makerspaces can play in helping promote healthy mindsets for learning. Maker education and makerspaces specifically promote: (1) intrinsic motivation by encouraging students to take ownership of their learning, (2) deeper learning by developing self-awareness of what a student does and does not yet know, and (3) creative problem solving by acknowledging the value of failure as an essential element of the learning process. “In short, an educational makerspace is less of a classroom and more of a motivational speech without words” (Kurti et al.).

Let’s chat.