About this Project
Generously funded through the Abundance Foundation, the Agency by Design project began at Project Zero in 2012. The initial research was guided by three questions:
- How do maker educators and leaders in the field think about the benefits and outcomes of maker-centered learning experiences?
- What are some of the key characteristics of environments in which maker-centered learning thrives?
- What kinds of educational interventions can we develop that support thoughtful reflection around maker-centered learning and the made dimensions of our world?
From 2012 – 2015, the Agency by Design team explored these questions through multiple strands of research: a literature review; interviews and site visits with maker education thought leaders; analyses of student work, and collaboration with a cohort of pre-K – 12 educators in Oakland, California. From 2016 - 2018, again with the generous support of the Abundance Foundation, Agency by Design engaged in a second phase of work. The premise of this work was that in order for maker-centered learning to have broad-scale and long-term impact on the field of education, it was crucial to develop documentation and assessment strategies to make maker-centered thinking and learning visible. The three questions that guided this phase were:
- How can learners make visible their ability to enact the three capacities at the core of the AbD framework--looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity?
- How can teachers qualitatively measure students’ performances in the area these three maker capacities?
- How can we collaborate with students and teachers to design a suite of practical documentation and assessment tools best suited to the development of maker empowerment?
The Abundance Foundation
The Abundance Foundation and our partners train, support and empower local leaders in communities worldwide to develop new capacities that build lasting improvements in quality of life. We work to promote whole and healthy communities by focusing on the intersection of Health, Arts and Education, and Empowerment. The Abundance Foundation serves as a connective hub to a network of visionaries, innovative projects, and organizations that are working together to transform scarcity into abundance.
As part of the larger Agency by Design research project, the AbD/Oakland Fellows have had the opportunity to see first hand the powerful impact of a locally formed and led fellowship convening around meaningful research-based ideas. The Oakland-based work has formed a structure that comprises the core design of this prospectus: a fellowship of 28 teachers from 16 schools or organizations working together to build individual maker-centered learning practices and think through new ideas as a learning community; a leadership team made up of educators able to offer personalized professional development according to the needs of participants; a grants program designed to provide schools and organizations with the tools and materials needed to reach their goals; thoughtful partnerships with key organizations in the field; and a primary focus on equity in the work.
The Pittsburgh Maker Educator Learning Community, otherwise known as Agency by Design Pittsburgh, is a research practice partnership designed to connect educators from diverse maker-based learning environments for the purpose of developing mutual understandings of maker-centered learning and assessment. Specifically, the teachers come together in the community to address their need to assess and document learning in maker-based learning experiences. The learning community is lead by an educator from Quaker Valley School District and a researcher from the University of Wisconsin. And the community consists of 30 educators from 20 organizations in in Western Pennsylvania.