Agency by Design

Educational initiatives that emphasize making, design, engineering, and tinkering have been gaining traction in schools and organizations across the country. While maker-centered learning is not a new concept, recent and emerging trends suggest a new kind of hands-on pedagogy—a responsive and flexible pedagogy that encourages community and collaboration (a do-it-together mentality), distributed teaching and learning, and crossing boundaries.

Agency by Design (AbD) is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences.

The Framework
Resources
activities and practicesObservational Drawing

Observational Drawing

This practice allows learners to notice features of an object that they may not have the vocabulary to fully describe yet. By doing several sketches, learners have the chance to engage in perspective taking and to see details they might miss at first glance.

Field NoteTaking Apart to Build Stories of Change

Taking Apart to Build Stories of Change

This piece is based on a workshop titled “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression,” led by Jaime Chao Mignano and Mark Perkins at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC).

Like a lot of educators, I want my students to be empowered to impact the world around them. I want them to have social and political agency in a sense that is perfectly aligned with what Agency by Design means by agency—that is, skills and tools in combination with intention and impulse to action. When I task my students with dismantling systems of oppression, how do they know what that means? Do they feel ready to enact it? And how can I be a support?

This was the seed of a workshop for this year’s National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC), a gathering of thousands of educators from around the United States to explore ideas and share experiences around equity and justice in our schools and lives. My colleague, Mark Perkins (Media and Theater Coordinator), and I wondered what insights we could offer by putting Take Apart practice in service to racial justice education. I was nervous to try to build under the conference throughline “Anti-Racist Teaching Tools” - the stakes felt so high. We had an inkling, though, that combining the enthusiastic engine of taking stuff apart with the resonant act of creating stories that reimagine existing narratives of power could be an important experiment.

Mark and I built a workshop we call “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression.” The heart of the workshop is the idea that looking closely and exploring the complexity of an object can create a bridge of metaphor that helps us understand a system of racial oppression.  If we build the connection between these two systems—the system of the object and the system of oppression—then we can see the oppressive system in a new light and probe new possibilities.

thinking routinesThink, Feel, Care

Think, Feel, Care

This routine encourages learners to consider the different and diverse perspectives held by the various people who interact within a particular system.

thinking routines“联系互动” 的思考模式 (简体版)

“联系互动” 的思考模式 (简体版)

这个思考模式鼓励学生能够慢下来,仔细观察其中一个系统。通过这样帮助学生更好地认识具体系统里无论是直接或间接相关的人物,学生也会注意到系统里任何一点变化,也许都会有意无意地影响到系统的其它方面。

activities and practicesThe Elaboration Game

The Elaboration Game

This practice is designed to deepen learners’ sensitivity to design through drawing, observing, questioning, and collaborating. 

thinking routines“另眼相看” 的思考模式 (简体版)

“另眼相看” 的思考模式 (简体版)

这个思考模式通过帮助学生近距离观察某个物品/系统的细节,考虑不同的使用者和利益相关者不同的观点角度,以反思自己和这个物品/系统的关系来探究其中的关联性。

videosAgency by Design: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds

Agency by Design: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds

"Agency by Design: Empowering Young People to Shape their Worlds" explores the ways in which educators can develop teaching strategies that support student agency through maker-centered learning experiences.

Video by Alex Coppola

documentation and assessment toolsTell Me More!

Tell Me More!

These conversation-starters help learners become sensitive to the presence of the Making Moves in their own and others’ learning. They also help learners have substantive conversations about the Making Moves with their peers.