We met at The Crucible on July 26th to launch the first official school year of the MENTOR Makerspace project. This was an opportunity for representatives from our pilot schools to get to know one another, hear about what the year holds in store, and share concerns as they get ready to launch their year of making with their students. We held it in the midst of an inspiring summer camp for kids at The Crucible, which meant that, as we toured the facility at the end of the day, we could see tweens and teens engaged with welding, sculpting with metal, casting with recycled aluminum, glassblowing and flameworking.
With over 20 people in the room and such an energizing subject as getting making into schools, we jammed a lot into one day. Summarizing the meeting for us, Makerspace teacher Roland Aichele shared with us the questions he heard us asking the group to consider this year:
- How do we expand making from the solitary hobbyist to a group activity? How do we facilitate making with a whole class?
- What modules/workshops/tutorials can we create on general topics such as electronics for other teachers/students to use?
- How do we combine making with the art of play for the sake of tweaking and improving our creations?
- How can we make “making” more social?
- How can we put more emphasis on the process of making, while still honoring presentation?
- How do we get students to document their process and to communicate with others?
- What do makerspaces look like in a school setting, as they are as important as the tools themselves?
Thanks for the great list of questions, Roland! These are things that we hope to answer on this blog and through discussions in our group.
To get a glimpse of our day, here’s one discussion we enjoyed. A question that came up during the meeting was that perennially nagging issue: what should we do about assessment? About half of the attendees felt that it was a concern, and the other half had some answers, so a discussion on options for handling assessment followed.
- One teacher pointed out that in a Makerspace we can give weight to the fact that “process is the point.” A project doesn’t necessarily have to be a success. Students think, “I passed because I went through the process, struggled with it, got somewhere, learned something.”
- When working in project-based classrooms, we can redefine “rigor,” but we still have to be clear about how we’re assessing them, and what the criteria are.
- Make it really difficult, but make it fun!
- For an example of authentic assessment, one teacher pointed out that in order for a chair to stand, there must be standards for structure and strength. These are the real kinds of standards–like the ones you see in industry!
- Have a more holistic view on assessing students, considering process, conduct, attitude, end product, craftmanship, execution, and approach.
- Some students go through a self-assessment on an online form (made in Google Docs), and the students tend to be much more brutally honest on themselves than their teacher might have been on them, so they often score quite poorly. But before they finally submit the project to the teacher, they can go back and fix the areas in which they scored poorly to improve their score. Assessing one’s own work is a skill we’d like to foster.
- Similarly, some teachers use peer assessment.
- …. but, in contrast to all of this, some of us appreciate and want liberation from assessment!
We’ll be sharing more of the tips and tricks, discussions and insights that came up during the meeting in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if your students are making in formal education settings, let us know what you’re doing to assess their work in the comments below.
(And if you’d like to be a part of the MENTOR Makerspace program in years to come, be sure you’ve added your name and email in the “Get Involved” widget on the right side of our homepage at makerspace.com.)