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
Field NoteTruth and Historical Amendment: Critical Mending in the Classroom

Truth and Historical Amendment: Critical Mending in the Classroom

Jaime Chao Mignano is a Senior Practitioner Specialist on the JusticexDesign (JxD) project, and an ongoing leader in the project's conception and development, including developing tools and supporting educators to apply the emerging JxD framework in their contexts.

We find ourselves in a thorny historical moment, in the United States and around the world.  Like my colleagues on the JusticexDesign project—and like many educators—I wonder: How will we support our students in deepening their understanding of the world around them and exploring the complex interplay of histories we are taking part in? In the US, we are debating the fate of American monuments, the legacy of American founders, and the impact of America’s own super story on the lived experiences of its people. How might we offer a path of agency to our students that champions historical honesty? And as we guide our students in considering colonial legacies, migration crises, and global economic injustice, what are some ways we might actively value the voices of communities adding their own truth to a contested history, even at terrible risk? 

Artist Titus Kaphar’s work offers a rich model, pieces “that are honest, that wrestle with the struggles of our past but speak to the diversity and the advances of our present.” WIS History teacher Nora Brennan, a colleague in Agency by Design's Making Across the Curriculum project, and I had been struck by Kaphar’s 2017 TED Talk, “Can Art Amend History?” He asks, with his own children in mind, “What is the impact of these kinds of paintings on some of our most vulnerable in society, seeing these kinds of depictions of themselves all the time?” Kaphar concludes by urging us to “amend our public sculptures, our national monuments” in order to expand and deepen our historical narrative.

In the fall of 2018, Nora took her history class to visit the Titus Kaphar collection in the “UnSeen: Our Past in a New Light” exhibit in the National Portrait Gallery. This experience was clearly powerful for students—we could sense that Kaphar’s artworks were shifting their gazes, pointing them to an actively unfolding dialogue on American history. Nora knew she wanted her students to connect more deeply to Kaphar’s philosophy of historical amendment. She combined this art exhibit and the history lessons she was teaching on the Civil War and Reconstruction as the foundation to challenge students to research a Civil War monument and reimagine it.  

At the same time, Nora knew it was important to contextualize this project in the very active conversation in the U.S.—and around the world--about monuments and public memory. The controversy around Civil War monuments was and is a real current event—many city and state governments have been taking steps to address the symbolic presence of historical racial terror embedded in public spaces by tearing down monuments, renaming streets and buildings, etc. We wanted students to situate their thinking within these substantive critiques - not to attempt reconciliation but to explore their own perspective. 

Nora drew on the Agency by Design framework to build her students’ sensitivity to the design of monuments and portraits. She knew that historical artworks can both express and obscure, offering us complex legacies that we can guide students in unpacking and probing. We wondered what maker empowerment might look like as students approach a portrait of Robert E. Lee or a statue of John. C. Calhoun.

thinking routines“换位思考”的思考模式 (简体版)

“换位思考”的思考模式 (简体版)

这个思考模式鼓励学生在一个特定的系统里思考不同人物的观点。其目标是帮助学生理解系统里的不同角色,他们会用什么形式去表达感受以及对系统里其他人物和事物的关心。

thinking routinesImagine if...

Imagine if...

This routine first encourages divergent thinking, as learners think of new possibilities for an object or system, and then encourages convergent thinking, as learners decide upon an effective approach to build, tinker, re/design, or hack an object or a system.

Field NoteIntroducing the New Agency by Design Website

Introducing the New Agency by Design Website

Welcome to the new Agency by Design website! Because the new website is so rich with content and features, we think it might be helpful to take you on a tour to get a sense of all it has to offer. The new site boasts 29 educator tools and practices that accompany the Agency by Design framework for maker-centered learning, featured documentation and assessment resources highlighting the most recent phases of work, Agency by Design media and publications, and project and funder pages to highlight the Origin Project, Early Childhood in the Making, and Making Across the Curriculum. The video below walks you through the elements of the site and gives an overview of each page.

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

thinking routinesPARTES, PERSPECTIVAS, E EU

PARTES, PERSPECTIVAS, E EU

A rotina ajuda os estudantes a explorar a complexidade ao encorajá-los a olhar atentamente para os detalhes de algo, considerando uma variedade de pontos de vista, de usuários e de partes interessadas e refletindo sobre as próprias conexões e seu envolvimento com o objeto ou o sistema em questão.

thinking routines“深入拆解”的思考模式 (简体版)

“深入拆解”的思考模式 (简体版)

这个思考模式通过让学生慢慢、细心地观察物件和系统中的细节,鼓励他们不止观察物件的表面特征,更重要的是了解其内部运作。

Field NoteA TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters

A TEDx Talk about the Maker Mind: Why Having a Sensitivity to Design Matters

Agency by Design project manager Jen Ryan describes her experience discussing the “maker mind” at TEDxDirigo.