PERSPECTIVES ON MAKING
AS A PEDAGOGICAL APPROACH
Our study explores the impact of involvement in a week-long makerspace camp on
three educators, who came into the study at three distinct points in their careers:
a pre-service teacher, a master of education student, and an in-service teacher.
Specically, we were interested in understanding: i) how involvement in the camp
would impact the various educators’ perspectives on teaching and learning; ii) how
their involvement might influence the potential for uptake of this particular
pedagogical approach; and iii) how pedagogical documentation (metacognition
being a central component of makerspace learning) might impact the educators’
understanding of how students learn in a makerspace.
The purpose of the March Break Maker Camp was to pilot, with a small group of
students, a new approach to teaching and learning using new makerspace tools. It
was a layered co-learning opportunity for the student participants, the teacher
candidate volunteers, and the researchers. The students learned about themselves,
the design process, problem-solving, new technology tools and how to conduct
research. The teacher candidates explored makerspace pedagogies, how to implement
them and they were introduced to the learning potential of new technologies. The
classroom teacher (hired to teach the students coding through Scratch) learned about
the makerspace pedagogy and new technology tools and acquired more in-depth
knowledge on the pedagogical potential of makerspaces. All of the educators
collaborated to develop best practices associated with makerspaces.
In addition, we all engaged in research throughout the process – even the students
who were positioned as co-researchers through the practice of pedagogical documentation.
They were asked to document their own process work, nal products, discussions and
presentations in the classroom and to interview one another about their experiences
and provide feedback. Everyone involved in this research project had a vested interest
in the activities and research and it provided an organic learning environment in which
everyone involved could learn from one another. We were all “actors” in this process,
at times acting and being acted upon (L atour, 20 05), teaching and learning, consuming
and creating. The work we undertook was for various authentic purposes with real-
world applications and/or audiences. The research questions driving the study included:
i) How does involvement in a makerspace study impact perspectives on teaching and
learning for educators at various points in their careers?; ii) How does involvement
impact uptake or buy-in of maker pedagogical practices for these educators; and, iii)
How does the practice of student pedagogical documentation impact educators’
understanding of student learning in a makerspace learning environment?
Production pedagogies draw on a combination of student-driven and active-learning
approaches such as inquiry-based learning, constructivism, constructionism and
Critical Digital Literacies (Hughes & Morrison, 2014). According to Thumlert et al
(2014) a production pedagogy is “one in which learning actors are enabled to engage
(multi)literacy, artistic, and/or practical design challenges and aptitudes through the
making of authentic cultural artefacts—and with correspondingly real audiences
similarly enabled to witness such acts of art and knowledge production” (p. 12). By
their very nature, maker pedagogies are collaborative and invoke such skills and
competencies as critical thinking and problem-solving, collaboration, communication,
global citizenship, self-awareness and metacognition, entrepreneurship, innovation
and creativity (Hughes, 2017). They disrupt traditional pedagogical approaches and
in a sense, stand in opposition to the current education system – one which has been
compared to the rigid and hierarchical assembly-line of the Industrial Revolution
(Robinson, 2011). While traditional, teacher-centered pedagogy can be classied as
uni-directional or a “top-down” approach to teaching and learning, maker pedagogies
can be aligned with the transformation-based approach. In a sense, the idea of “the
teacher as expert” has been replaced in favour of a more democratic learning dynamic.
Learning is bi-directional and occurs as a result of a multitude of learner interactions
– learner and self, learner and peer, learner and technology, learner and chosen
challenge, learner and facilitator.
Production pedagogies engage learners in the “activity of production, enabling
actors to deconstruct and reconstruct, interpret and regure, and to make both
meanings and ‘things’ within the context of appreciably meaningful cultural/aesthetic
inter ventions” (Thumlert et al, 2014, p. 13). Drawing on actor-net work theor y (Latour,
2005), this approach emphasizes the reciprocal relationship between the user or
“actor” and the technologies; we are both acting and acted upon (Thumlert et al,
2014, p. 2). These scholars propose that focusing on the affordances of digital
technology alone, or even how the learner interacts with the technology, tends to
re-inscribe the traditional approach to schooling. Rather than focus on explication
and step-by-step scaffolding (Ranciere, 1991), we might more usefully give learners
opportunities to begin in complexity, to discover, explore, and enact their own course
of learning “by engaging in idiosyncratic challenges, by guring things out, and by
co-producing multimodal artefacts” (Thumlert et al, p. 7). These elements all combine
to create a fertile learning environment where students’ development of self and
agency are intricately intertwined with the learning process.
In line with the underlying concepts of formative assessment, pedagogical
documentation works to inform teachers so that they can adjust ongoing teaching to
suit the needs of their students (Buldu, 2010; Ontario Ministry of Education, 2015).
Caldwell (1997) denes pedagogical documentation as a way to systematically capture
student learning. Educators can use observations, transcriptions of interactions in
the learning environment, analyses of nal artifacts and use these with students to
inspire deeper reections (Buldu, 2010). This allows students to engage with their
learning process in a way that was not possible until recent years. They can not only
look back and reect on their learning experience, they can see concrete examples of
it. This sharing between educator and student encourages the greater involvement in
the student’s learning experience. This can serve to improve student self-condence
and self-awareness when it comes to their content understanding and willingness to
participate in class-wide activities (Buldu, 2010; Parnell, 2012).
Additionally, this technique offers teachers the opportunity to reect on their
teaching practices. Pedagogical documentation exposes the gaps in student learning
as well as areas that they are thriving (Buldu, 2010). By engaging students in the
documentation process, we are encouraging them to share their perspective of the
learning environment. While educators can assume or theorize what students believe
or how they are learning, pedagogical documentation provides students the opportunity
to bring their perspective to light (Niemi, Kumpulainen & Lipponen, 2015). By
shifting the research power to the students, these implicit beliefs on student learning
and knowledge acquisition can be empirically shown through the data. Pedagogical
documentation has the power to challenge preconceived assumptions about classroom
practice (Niemi, Kumpulainen & Lipponen, 2015) and through a new lens, the
improvement of pract ica l skil ls and technique could improve the learning environment
for all stakeholders. Through the use of professional judgement based on the data
collected, educators are better able to foster lesson plans to the specic needs of their
st udents in a way th at the cl ass will nd engaging while st i l l mak i ng cr itical curriculu m
connections (Ontario Ministry of Education, 2012). Production pedagogies, by their
inherent incorporation of authentic learning and assessment practices, facilitate
perhaps a richer level of teacher understanding when it comes to what and how their
Technology Integration in Teaching Practice
Through research in the area of technology integration and teaching we know that
the up-skilling of pre-service teachers is a solid predictor of how they will adhere to
transformation-based pedagogies as opposed to the traditional pedagogies with which
many have been indoctrinated throughout their years of schooling (Machado &
Laverick, 2015; Polly, Mims, Shepherd & Inan, 2010). Pre-service teachers are more
likely to integrate new pedagogies and tools if they have been provided with hands-
on, practical experiences (Kiili, Kauppinen, Coiro & Utriainen, 2016). As a result, it
was important for us to have heavy teacher candidate (TC) involvement in the March
Break Camp from the Bachelor of Education program. We saw this as a key
opportunity to reshape how the teacher candidates think about and approach
education. We also know that the most effective professional development when it
comes to technology (for any pre- or in-service teacher) does not come from isolated
professional development (PD) days. In these scenarios, teachers are shown a new
technology and then left to gure it out, integrate it and troubleshoot technical issues
on their own (Hughes & Burke, 2014; Potter & Rockinson-Szapkiw, 2012). In contrast,
we know that the most effective PD comes when teachers are introduced to a
technology in an authentic learning environment. In this way, the technology is
purposefully integrated into a plausible scenario and the teacher can see and
understand the best practices surrounding the tool. Importantly, the teacher can also
learn how to use the tool with knowledgeable others in a supportive environment
(Kimmons & Hall, 2016; Martin, et al., 2010).
To explore our research questions, we used a qualitative design in keeping with the
established practice of in-depth studies of teaching and learning and case studies in
general (Stake, 2000). The qualitative research made use of a case study methodology,
which included the written reections and transcribed interviews with the three
participants as the primary data sources.
Sixteen students were participants in the March Break Maker Camp – 11 boys and 5
girls. The students ranged in age, and, apart from the two outliers in the group (one
aged 8 and one aged 12), most students were between 9 and 11 years old. The st udents
were in learning-exceptional and mainstream programs at their home schools. We
also had 14 teacher candidate volunteers – three males and eleven females; three
researchers – including 2 masters students, and one in-service classroom teacher. For
the purposes of this paper, we chose to focus on the experiences of one of the teacher
candidate volunteers, one master of education student, and the in-service teacher.
Although our study includes data based on a large sampling of participants, we used
purposive sampling for this paper due to its limited scope
The camp took place primarily in our makerspace lab at a university in Southern
Ontario, Canada. The students used MacBook Pro laptops to access various online
programs and tools, such as the block coding program Scratch, internet search engines
like Google and digital design tools like Piktochart. Within the makerlab, the students
worked on projects at communal tables and collaborated on the carpeted common
area. Here they could spread out their materials, plan the way to address the tasks,
brainstorm with peers and work together to learn and bui ld. Occasiona lly, t he st udent s
spread out into different rooms to work on individual or group projects to allow
themselves more space and a quieter environment to share ideas. This was done to
build community amongst campers and to create an environment that focused on
that project/tool. Everyday, the students also accessed activities, shared knowledge
or reected on daily tasks using the online platforms, Padlet and BitStrips.
Data sources for the study as a whole included eld notes based on observations of
students and interactions between students and instructors. In addition, in-depth
open-ended interviews were conducted with the teacher candidates, the in-service
teacher and the Masters students who helped with instruction. The transcribed
interviews, along with our eld notes, are the primary sources of data for this paper.
In the analysis of the educator interviews, Davies’ (2011) theoretical framework for
evaluating educational technology integration was applied. This framework includes
three distinct phases: the awareness stage where teachers become aware of the various
technology available to be integrated into their pedagogical practice; the praxis stage,
where teachers begin to use and become familiar with the technology (and are generally
excited about the tools and their potential), but do not necessarily have the competence
yet to know where, why and how to integrate the tools most meaningfully into their
practice; and the phronesis stage where both competence in the tool and wisdom of
best practice with it are achieved.
Analysis of the data required several different layers of coding and interpretation.
Using a thematic coding system, we coded the interview transcripts following
traditional coding procedures (Strauss & Corbin, 1990). We then compared themes
across the different cases in order to identify recurring and overlapping thematic and
structural patterns (Black, 2007). The analytic methods included thematic coding
(Miles & Huberman, 1994) and critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1995). The
data were read and coded for major themes and subthemes across data sources and
the codes were revised and expanded as more themes emerged.
During the data analysis, we were particularly interested in what Bruner (1994)
identies as ‘turning points,’ looking for areas where the students presented increased
condence or “aha moments” in their work with the makerspace tools and/or activities.
For the educators involved, the makerspace camp was a unique opportunity to progress
through Davies’ (2011) framework of technology integration. In our study we extend
this framework to include not only the technology but the adoption of production
pedagogies (which includes metacognitive reection, and in our case, pedagogical
documentation), as the technologies and pedagogies are so closely aligned here. In
Davies’ (2011) rst phase toward effective integration, educators need to be introduced
to the available tools (the foundation for later adoption). This occurred seamlessly in
the context of the camp as the educators witnessed not only the wide variety of
available technology, but also the students using the tools in authentic situations.
The teacher candidate shared: “The camp program introduced me to new methods
for...21st century learning. I was able to improve my understanding of how to engage
students through inquiry-based projects, obstacles relevant to technology and
infrastructure, and best applications for use in the classroom.” He then shared, “It
is amazing to see the reality of the makerspace and STEAM/STEM movement in
education. It is benecial because it is real. The makerlab is applying it, the schools
are trying to apply it, and it is not just an idea being talked about.” While he shared
he had been learning about the maker movement and coding in his B.Ed. program,
the rst-hand experience with this new approach, “created a better awareness of what
works and what does not, with regards to makerspaces.”
The masters of education student similarly shared: “Through my involvement in
the camp, the theoretical basis that was laid out in my graduate courses was given
depth and reality. I was able to witness rsthand the implications of maker pedagogies
and STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) education in a
non-traditional learning environment, the makerspace lab, and the impact that they
could have on student learning and engagement.”
Even for the in-service teacher, involvement in the camp provided a deep learning
opportunity. He explained that seeing the maker approach to learning and the
associated tech tools was “mind blowing.” His ultimate goal is to have students
engaged in self-directed learning and for him to be the “guide on the side”. Seeing
this being successfully achieved in the camp helped him understand, with authentic
examples, how this might be achievable in the near future.
For all the educators, having the opportunity to see students from a variety of
different educational backgrounds and experiences come into the makerspace and
ourish, conrmed that the makerspace (with its associated tech tools and pedagogies)
was an effective approach to learning. Rather than simply reading about makerspaces
or attending PD days, involvement in the camp provided the setting to see and learn
the tools and pedagogies in a hands-on authentic context.
The praxis stage of the Davies’ (2011) framework is explained as the point in which
there is familiarity and excitement for use of technology tools but mastery and
meaningful integration is not yet achieved.
While progressing through the inquiry process with students in the makerspace,
the Bachelor of Education student expressed how he “was challenged with the true
essence of being led through inquiry and how possible that would be to do in a more
traditional classroom.” There was an understanding of the benets and clear interest
in the use of this teaching methodology, but the student still exposed gaps in his
understanding of the implementation.
Conversely, the M. Ed student shared that, “by being a part of the camp and
experiencing the technology tools rsthand, I have developed not only a deeper
understanding of the tools themselves, but also the affordances and constraints that
they potentially present with different student groups. I have seen tools that are
incredibly engaging but lose their novelty after a few moments – the 3D printer for
example – and others that students got lost in for hours – block coding tools like
Scratch and Scratch Jr.” Here, there is evidence that the knowledge base is still
developing, but there is a shift towards deeper understanding of the use of these
With regards pedagogical documentation, the methodology encourages users to
shift perspectives and understanding to a deeper more meaningful level. The cases
in this study reect that the educators all had different experiences with the use of
pedagogical documentation. The teacher candidate struggled to dene the concept
initially but after reecting on the week he concluded that, “it is the ways in which
students were accomplishing tasks with digital devices, they were also reecting on
their projects or telling their process(es) through these tools. It shows me the relevance
of how making can use formative assessment to show student understanding.” His
understanding shifted from having little-to-no formal exposure to pedagogical
documentation, to understanding the relevance and importance of its use. He
acknowledged the power of this documentation method as it exemplies a shift in
the students: “there emerges a huge sense of personal connection and responsibility.
Not only do they strive to show their understanding, they try to produce something
greater.” At this stage, he recognizes that both process and product are important in
The graduate student seemed to have more exposure to pedagogical documentation
and was able to recognize its importance from the beginning of the camp. She
acknowledged, “By positioning the students as researchers from the get-go, they were
told that their viewpoint on the experience mattered and it opened the doors to what
they thought were the more crucial things to focus their attention on and how they
chose to document it, be it by video or still photography.” Here she recognized the
ownership that is afforded to the students through this methodology and also outlined
the ways it impacted student learning: “It forces students to really think in the moment
and make decisions, but it also allows them to engage in their learning in ways that
they may never have experienced.” Her understanding, while not complete, showed
a growing familiarity and interest in the future of this documentation method.
The in-service teacher identified as being a current user of pedagogical
documentation in his own classroom and demonstrated a clear understanding of its
use in education. “Any time the students were recording – they were recording for
an audience. When recording for others (peers, a larger group, parents), it makes for
an interesting context.” His comments suggested that the students were aware of the
purpose of their recording and that is what contributed to the higher quality content.
Clearly his students are aware of the reason that they are participating in this type of
documentation and that is what will provide him with the best results for use in his
class. His perspective emphasized the powerful shift that exists when you give students
a stronger voice in the classroom. He commented: “[Pedagogical documentation]
also builds in feedback – in a way, they are creating their own feedback. When they
review the photos or videos they took of the process work or end products, they have
this opportunity to objectively view and reect and then revise as they see t.” He
nds that pedagogical documentation encourages metacognitive skill development
in his students and that better prepares them as they continue through their education.
All of the educators involved throughout the camp saw clear benets to their
participation. Whether there had been exposure to concepts, like pedagogical
documentation, prior to the camp or not, there was clear growth and development
by each stakeholder involved.
In this last stage of Davies’ (2011) framework, where both competence and wisdom
of best practice are achieved, there were emergent signs from each of the educators.
Regarding the digital tools, the teacher candidate shared: “Through the camp, I was
able to identify a variety of curricular areas where coding had a purpose, allowing
me to establish its place in my future class.” The teacher candidate also explained
that prior to his involvement in the camp, he had no experience with any of the
technologies or how to implement them in the classroom; however, as a result of his
involvement he learned the technologies and began using them (specically MaKey
MaKey and Scratch), along with the inquiry-based approach in his practicum
placements and later work. In terms of his experience with pedagogical documentation,
the teacher candidate shared, “It was really amazing to see what [the students] were
doing and how they as individuals were evolving with [their work through the
reection process]. This is how students should be learning. This is how I want my
students learning.” In sharing his insights on the value of reection and iterative
process work, the teacher candidate demonstrated an emergent understanding of
maker practices and the central importance of the reective process.
For the in-service teacher, the experience in the maker camp, combined with a
variety of other similar experiences with inquiry-based education have impacted his
classroom based practice. In his words, they “have shifted the way I teach. They have
prov ided me wit h new ways of t h inking, new approaches and new tools.” This afrmed
that it is through these repeated practical experiences that the groundwork for effective
adoption of technology, and their associated pedagogies, is achieved.
For the M.Ed. st udent, the pedagogical documentat ion aspect of the camp proved
particularly helpful in understanding how to meaningful integrate makerspace
pedagogies: “There are metacognitive skills that are fostered through this type of
process. Students are making these decisions and can reect on them because they
can continue to interact with that moment. Whether it is a ‘why did I even bother
with that?’ or a ‘wow, I missed that the rst time,’ it empowers students to adapt and
change the way they are learning and interacting with their learning environment.”
As the reection/revision process and the concept of learning to learn are large
components of the production pedagogies approach, the inclusion of pedagogical
documentation enabled the educators to clearly understand the process and its value.
This educator’s insight highlights at least a degree of emergent competence as she
articulates the how, why and educational impact of this process.
While the camp may have been too short a time period for the educators to fully
realize Davies’ (2011) phronesis stage, it provided them with the authentic learning
environment necessary to become aware of makerspace technologies and best
practices. It also allowed the educators to learn some of the tools, and to experiment
with the productions pedagogies approach through mentorship. In a controlled, yet
hands-on environment, the transition from novice to one who exhibits signs of
competency is made smooth.
This particular group of students were primarily considered learning exceptional on
the “gifted” end of the spectrum. As a result, their willingness to engage with the
tools and in the project/problem based learning environment may have come from
a previous familiarity with this approach to learning. The students may have also
come in to the study with a good foundational knowledge of things like circuits,
making the troubleshooting an easier process if compared to a group with no previous
knowledge in this area (i.e. this group may have had a foundation from which to work
or contextualize the new information/tools). Finally, because this was a March Break
camp, the overall tone and expectations coming into the camp were different from
a classroom. Most of the students chose to attend, so they had at least a baseline
interest in the tools and activities. However, as with most technology, time needs to
be set aside at the beginning for students to simply play with and get used to the
technology. In our experience, this step is necessary for the students to move past
the “novelty” and entertainment stage. While the participants eventually settled in
to using the iPads and GoPros as documentation tools, for example, there was the
initial excitement and distraction with the tools’ various features – most notably the
PhotoBooth lters and the timelapse feature. Though, interestingly, after playing
around with these features at the beginning (and as a result becoming familiar with
them) some students later used them in their documentation effectively. One student
used the timelapse feature to record an entire day at the maker camp and then
condensed it down to a few minutes. This provided a captivating overview of the
events of each day and the progression of the week.
With respect to the in-service and pre-service educators highlighted in this paper,
both showed signs of what might be considered an “open-minded” and “reform”
approach to education as opposed to a “close-minded” or more “traditional” approach,
so their level of receptiveness to the makerspace and pedagogical documentation may
have been slanted in favour of the aforementioned.
This study emphasizes the importance of exposure to new teaching and learning
methodologies regardless of level of experience in the eld of education. The March
Break Maker Camp afforded all stakeholders the opportunities to work with motivated
students, explore novel technologies and tools, and familiarize themselves with a
novel means for documenting student and professional learning. Participation
encouraged the educators to expand and challenge their preconceptions of teaching
and learning in the 21st century.
Connection to the themes of the assembly
Students Voice in Teacher Education
This study provided a unique opportunity for educators to observe and interact with
students who were engaging in pedagogical documentation in a way that is not
commonly seen in traditional education settings, by using tools like the GoPro cameras
and iPad recording apps. Since campers were introduced early on to the idea of being
framed as a researcher, they were able to provide a deeper insight into the aspects of
projects and lessons and where they felt their time was best spent. Additionally, this
provided them the opportunity to reect not only in an interview or video diary entry,
but through playback and reviewing of the content they captured. This metacognitive
growth afforded students the opportunity to explore where they felt decits existed
and better explain why through the use of the artifacts (videos, audio clips and images)
that they collected. They were more deeply engaged with the learning process that
they were involved in and were empowered to make a difference for future campers
and st udents. This in tur n allowed the educators involved to refra me their perspectives
of students needs in the classroom setting and challenged them to improve their
practice as they move forward.
With regards to the teacher candidate volunteers, this study provided a platform
for them to voice their opinions on ways to better their own learning experience.
Since they were engaging with students in a non-traditional education setting and
tinkering with the tools that were available to the students, they were able to widen
their understanding of education practices beyond the theoretical realm. The teacher
candidates were able to take what they had learned from their time in the camp and
apply these practices and ideas into their future practicum placements, as outlined
by the case above. Some of the teacher candidates who participated in the March
Break Camp have moved on to further their knowledge surrounding technology in
education and have continued to work within the area of problem-based learning and
Improving the Quality of Learning
The production pedagogies approach places students at the centre of his or her
authentic learning experience. By embracing this teaching practice, teachers are
inherently changing the way that the classroom is managed and in turn will help to
improve overall quality of learning. Individualized instruction allows for differentiation
of information to better provide students the opportunity to grow and thrive in their
learning environment. By encouraging students to engage in personally meaningful
and relevant activities while still leveraging technology and meeting curricular
expectations, we as educators are better preparing our students for the technology-
driven workforce that they will be entering upon graduation. The 21st century skills
such as metacognition, problem-solving, collaboration and learning to learn are
inherent in the production pedagogies approach. By addressing these competencies
early on in education, students are better prepared to use them both within the
academic setting and more generally in their everyday lives.
Teaching in the Digital Era
As outlined above, the 21st century skills and competencies that are often associated
with makerspace learning environments and production pedagogies approaches, act
to better prepare students for active participation in the world outside of the classroom
walls. Through fostering these in a classroom, teachers are better able to keep pace
with the lived experiences of students, including their interaction with technology in
everyday life. This mindset will encourage students to educate themselves in line with
the direction in which the workforce is moving (i.e. coding and computer programming
sk i l ls as an emergi ng job requirement). In order for teachers to engage students, create
meaningful learning opportunities and foster development of habits of mind
(perseverance, problem-solving, collaboration, etc.) and the technical skills they will
require, these students must develop agency and a desire to succeed both personally
Teacher Education and Professional Development
Oftentimes content is covered on a theoretical basis in university-based programs,
but seldom do we see these brought to life in the classroom. The study provided a
nu mber of teacher candidates the opportunity to simultaneously be exposed to theory
and accompanying practice in a novel teaching and learning environment. Their time
in the makerlab and March Break Camp challenged what they had been taught in
theory and exposed them to both affordances and constraints of bringing those
theories to practice. By offering these teacher candidate volunteers the experience to
engage in authentic learning with hands-on and real time support with technologies,
there was a clear improvement in their understanding of the nuances involved in
these pedagogical approaches. Maker and production pedagogies encourage students
to explore concepts more deeply, and by participating in this type of environment
these candidates and the in-service teacher were able to do the same. They were
exposed to a problem (how do we teach with these pedagogical approaches) and the
opportunity to work through it by participating as instructors in the camp. This
facilitated metacognitive reection from the participants and allowed them to come
to terms with what they were learning at their own pace and in their own unique way.
The camp acted as a way to bridge the gap between theory and practice and attempted
to do so in a safe and supportive way. This is the kind of on-site, just-in-time, hands-
on professional development that researchers like Kiili et al. (2016) espouse.
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