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Chapter 6

Designing Maker-Based Instruction

Christian S. McKay & Krista D. Glazewski


Editors’ Foreword


Preconditions (when to use the theory)


  • Content that can be experienced through the production of tangible products.


  • All students.

      Learning environments

  • Application-oriented, learner-centered environment that supports the production of

                meaningful physical artifacts that students value.

      Instructional development constraints

  • Significant planning and development may be required to provide the location, resources and instructional supports needed by students as they create physical artifacts.


Values (opinions about what is important)

      About ends (learning goals)

  • Generating physical objects that are personally meaningful and valuable is highly valued.

  • Conceptual understanding and connections between the theoretical and physical properties of materials are highly valued.

      About means (instructional methods)

  • Learning through doing (active learning) is highly valued.

  • Learning situated within a collaborative community is highly valued.

      About priorities (criteria for successful instruction)

  • Effectiveness and appeal are more important than efficiency.

      About power (to make decisions about the previous three)

  • Self-directed learning is highly valued.


Universal Principles

     1. Identify a starting point.

  • Identify a starting point based on a learner’s inspiration, interests, and interactions, for making to be productive and inventive.

     2. Provide tools, materials, and resources.

  • In order to make products, appropriate tools, materials, and resources are required. (See the Situational Principles section for variations.)

     3. Formulate design goals.

  • Design goals should be co-constructed between a learner and instructor.

  • Design goals should be guided by human-centered design questions, such as “Why am I making this? and Who will experience it?

     4. Structure the design task.

  • The design task should expand the learner’s ability in purposeful directions through iterative artifact development and refinement or re-development.

  • Provide appropriate design guidance. (See the Situational Principles section for variations.)

     5. Foster cycles of prototyping, failure, and refinement.

  • Use prototyping to test an initial hypothesis in a real-world situation.

  • As flaws in the design solution become apparent in use, the analysis and understanding of failure should guide further product development (refinement).

  • Continue the cycle of prototyping, failure, and refinement until an acceptable solution emerges. 

     6. Assist learners in generating meaningful inquiry questions.

  • Use meaningful inquiry questions to support learners’ interest and progress toward learning goals.

  • Instructors should provide direct assistance to most learners to develop meaningful inquiry questions. Instructors should use a scaffolding process of asking a series of inquiry questions (of increasing complexity) to help learners develop inquiry skills. 

     7. Facilitate value beyond the lab.

  • Facilitate maker activities that are directly connected to content and have an authentic purpose for the making.

  • Explicitly connect student making efforts to broader value beyond school.


Situational Principles

      Designing the maker space

  • The provisioning of a space with resources and the type of artifacts which may reasonably be produced depend on the design of the maker space. Common designs and their affordances include:

    • Dedicated space allows for more substantial fabrication tools enabling more complex processes and artifacts.

    • Pop-up space allows for a smaller maker space footprint, often more ideal for an occasional maker project in an otherwise non-maker (traditional) curriculum.

    • Mobile cart space is useful when one or more fabrication tools are used in various locations rather than in a fixed space, and is particularly useful in spreading the maker space technology (and process) to multiple classrooms and embedding the process directly into “regular” classrooms.

      Forefronting content or purpose

  • The ideal set of tools and resources is not only determined by budgetary constraints, but is also guided by the purpose of the maker space activity. Significant variations often occur in setting with varying orientations.

    • STEM orientation, such as robotics or engineering projects, may require extensive technical fabrication tools.

    • Design and craft orientation projects often require relatively simple hand tools, which may allow for effective integration of maker projects into regular curriculum and may better support the development of maker-oriented culture in a school setting.

      Providing learner guidance

  • Guidance for tools and materials varies according to the tools, materials, and methods of application to maker projects.

  • Guidance varies for application of learning from the maker project to the overall discipline or curriculum.

    • Provide opportunities for reflection, timely coaching, and direct assistance when required to support learners completing projects. 


Case Description

     The Interactive Book Project

                                                                                                                                                                                       –  C.M.R., B.J.B & R.D.M.

Instructional-Design Theories and Models: Volume IV, The Learner-Centered Paradigm of Education

Edited by Charles M. Reigeluth, Brian J. Beatty & Rodney D. Myers       2017

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