Making Space: Teacher Perceptions of How Participation and Choice Are Mediated within Maker Education in Independent Schools

Kelly Bird, University of Pennsylvania


While previous research of maker spaces has primarily been focused on public and community spaces, this dissertation looked at maker education in independent schools. Maker education often challenges traditional approaches to teaching and learning, positioning teachers more as facilitators who support students to make meaningful decisions as they realize their big ideas. In examining whether maker education is one way for independent schools to create more inclusive educational settings, this dissertation paid close attention to the pedagogical moves of maker education teachers. In order to conceptualize the power dynamics that influence the teaching and learning within maker education, this study used the construct of third space to explore pedagogical forms of power. Choice and participation are both factors that influence where power lies in a classroom. To better understand the mediating factors of choice and participation, this study used a qualitative approach to examine 17 different teachers’ perceptions of choice and participation within maker education in independent schools. This study also explored how the limitations of COVID-19 impacted the work maker education teachers did with their students. An analysis of the interviews explored how maker teachers’ practices and pedagogical moves make space for student choice and agency. The findings revealed that teacher autonomy enabled the teachers to lift up multiple ways of knowing and gave them a freedom from assigning grades, allowing them to rethink how students were assessed. The teachers’ perceptions of their approach to teaching also appeared aligned with several culturally responsive teaching (CRT) practices, positioning maker education with the potential to renegotiate what is considered legitimate knowledge and providing independent schools with one way to create more inclusive settings. An analysis of findings related to the impacts of COVID-19 revealed that teachers were able to identify several opportunities as a result of COVID-19 limitations. Having fewer materials available proved to be beneficial, time became more expansive. and students’ learning was better connected to their home-based experience. The experiences that maker education teachers described facilitating during COVID-19 present the option to do things differently when students return to in-person learning.

Subject Area

Educational administration|Educational leadership|Science education

Recommended Citation

Bird, Kelly, "Making Space: Teacher Perceptions of How Participation and Choice Are Mediated within Maker Education in Independent Schools" (2021). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI28768379.