Tags: Project based learning | STEM/STEAM | Teacher inquiry | Collaborative tools | Primary |
The year 7 and 8 teaching team at Marshland School establish a makerspace to increase engagement and enable successful learning for priority learners.
The Toroa teaching team worked collaboratively using Kaser and Halbert’s (2014) Spirals of Inquiry as a framework for their inquiry.
They investigated the effect of authentic learning on increasing student motivation and engagement. Students identified their own real-life problems in this project-based approach, and created solutions to these within the Makerspace the team developed. Students shared their products and learning at a Maker Faire where the local community was invited.
Makerspaces are collaborative workshops where young people gain practical hands-on experience with new technologies and innovative processes to design and build projects. They provide a flexible environment where learning is made physical by applying science, technology, math, and creativity to solve problems and build things.
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“In Toroa, we noticed that not all students were motivated. It seems though, that when they are learning something they are interested in, or passionate about, often outside of school, they are quite different learners."
– Carolyn Davies, Toroa team leader
The team placed learners at the centre of their inquiry. They focused on knowing their learners – their abilities, interests both inside and outside of the classroom, and barriers to learning.
Teachers built learner profiles and brainstormed the underlying factors behind their students' motivational challenges.
"We realised that these students have the ability, but not necessarily the drive, in class, and so we need to tap into different ways of teaching and learning for them.”
– Toroa teaching team
The team discovered that they had examples of learners who:
“It may just be that the way they are being taught is not the way they think."
– Toroa teaching team
Teachers reflected on their practice and challenged their assumptions asking:
After gathering and analysing student and whānau voice, alongside achievement data, and learner profiles, the team focused their collaborative inquiry.
“How can we successfully integrate multiple disciplines and 21st century learning skills to engage, motivate, and develop different ways for our priority students to be successful?”
Teachers investigated the effect of authentic learning on increasing motivation and engagement among their students.
Reflecting on current research and past experiences, teachers identified factors that contribute to student engagement and successful learning.
The Maker Movement - or project-based learning - supports students to learn by doing (Martinez & Stager, 2016 ).
Students appreciated the skills, strategies, and experiences of soldiers by digging their own trench, as part of a study on World War. This rich learning experience made learning visible and deepened learning connections for both the students and the wider community.
This previous experience showed authentic learning engaged students and created memories that remained after they left primary school.
The Toroa team decided to use their makerspace to engage students who "get lost" in the traditional classroom and support student agency.
In the makerspace students can:
Kaupapa Māori principles:
Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles:
To get started on their makerspace projects, teachers:
Students then identified their own real-life problems for projects.
Luke’s real-life problem: he was sick of uncomfortable headphones while wearing a hoodie
Hiamoe’s real-life problem: not having a phone case to fit his phone
Teachers provided support during the initial stages of the students' projects. They explained the need for timelines, planning, leaders, and various roles within the group. With strong foundations established teachers then checked in with groups – some needed more frequent check-ins or support than others. Three teams had a parent come in regularly to support, teach, and connect with the children.
The Toroa team held a Maker Faire, inviting parents and whānau.
The Maker Faire showcased all that the students had learnt, after 12 weeks. Students demonstrated, how the 3D printer, coding, robotics, and screen printing worked, as well as what they had created using these tools.
The students shared the ways they had:
"The children are engaged because they can see why we make it, rather than just to get a score for another test, or exam."
– Carolyn Davies, Toroa Team lead
The Maker Faire extended relationships and connections with learning, while also showcasing future-focused learning within the community.
The Checking Phase of the Spirals of inquiry asks: Are we making enough of a difference? How do we know?
The Toroa team found working on real-world problems engaged students who were previously disengaged. This was evidenced by the students’:
Data from student questionnaires showed an increased level of enjoyment and recognition of successful learning.
The most enjoyable part of the project
“ The big market day, because it felt like a special gift for all the hard work we had done.”
– Marshland student
The most important thing I learned in this project
“Learning to work with different people.”
“Working with people that are not your friends, because I was more focused”
“I learnt to be better at teamwork.”
– Marshland students
Teachers described their roles as facilitators or coaches who supported students to uncover what they needed to know for their projects. They developed an understanding of using the principles of UDL when planning to include all learners from the outset.
Projects were diverse, ranging from electronics to screen printing. Teachers learnt new things alongside their students – Ako in action.
Teachers recognise the kaupapa and skills they learnt in their inquiry are transferable.
“From electronics and robotics, to knitting, weaving and carving, we want crafters and engineers to share their skill with our tamariki.”
Throughout the school terms, Marshlands will use their makerspace to support learning across the curriculum, integrating its use as much as possible. They will place a strong focus on the skills of communicating, listening, and collaborating. They plan to develop the Toroa daVinci Space as a community makerspace and prototype an imagination station for the juniors, with the notion of developing STEAM skills early.