The Agency by Design Inquiry Cycle has been designed to support educators in the processes of designing, documenting, assessing, and reflecting on maker-centered learning. This tool was collaboratively developed over time, and formally prototyped with cohorts of maker educators in two locations: Oakland, California, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this paper, Agency by Design researchers Jessica Ross and Edward P. Clapp loosely use the structure of the Inquiry Cycle to describe the iterative process of developing this tool, along with some suggested implications for practice. Throughout the piece, we share the experiences of our teacher partners as they grappled with this tool—tweaking, hacking, and remixing it—as they explored its potential for designing, documenting, assessing, and reflecting upon their work in the maker-centered classroom.
A practice that promotes the capacity of looking closely is the Elaboration Game. This picture of practice essay shares a version that was adapted by educator Tatum Omari for a group of young learners to examine a tortilla press during their unit of study about bread making.
Engaging young learners in exploring complexity and finding opportunities to make systems better requires perspective taking and empathy. Role playing can be a powerful approach to support learners in taking others’ perspectives when exploring the roles, ideas, and feelings of different characters in a system. Here we offer a few thoughts on how to leverage children’s natural desire to play and how to employ different thinking routines to foster perspective taking and empathy. This tool is intended as a starting point and does not need to be followed step by step or happen all at once.
This routine encourages learners to slow down and look closely at a system. It helps them notice that there are different people who participate in the system and that they participate in different ways. It also encourages students to explore how one change in a system can impact the rest of the system. This thinking routine can help foster curiosity as children notice details, ask questions, make connections, and identify topics for future inquiry. It also helps children practice systems thinking.