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
videosThe Maker Mind: Jen Ryan at TEDxDirigo

The Maker Mind: Jen Ryan at TEDxDirigo

Agency by Design researcher Jen Ryan explores some of the central ideas from the framework at TEDxDirigo Generate.

activities and practicesDesign Hunt

Design Hunt

This practice first encourages learners to observe the world around them and look for design, “in the wild,” taking a broad inventory of the designs they notice. Then it asks them to focus in on one object or system to consider the designer’s perspective or to propose redesign ideas.

Field NoteBuilding a Maker Educator Learning Community in Pittsburgh

Building a Maker Educator Learning Community in Pittsburgh

Guest Author Jeff Evancho, the Project Zero Programming Specialist at the Quaker Valley School District, describes the process of establishing the Pittsburgh Maker Educator Learning Community, including the community’s interest in developing documentation and assessment strategies for the maker-centered classroom.

Field NoteTaking Apart to Build Stories of Change

Taking Apart to Build Stories of Change

This piece is based on a workshop titled “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression,” led by Jaime Chao Mignano and Mark Perkins at the National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC).

Like a lot of educators, I want my students to be empowered to impact the world around them. I want them to have social and political agency in a sense that is perfectly aligned with what Agency by Design means by agency—that is, skills and tools in combination with intention and impulse to action. When I task my students with dismantling systems of oppression, how do they know what that means? Do they feel ready to enact it? And how can I be a support?

This was the seed of a workshop for this year’s National Association of Independent Schools People of Color Conference (PoCC), a gathering of thousands of educators from around the United States to explore ideas and share experiences around equity and justice in our schools and lives. My colleague, Mark Perkins (Media and Theater Coordinator), and I wondered what insights we could offer by putting Take Apart practice in service to racial justice education. I was nervous to try to build under the conference throughline “Anti-Racist Teaching Tools” - the stakes felt so high. We had an inkling, though, that combining the enthusiastic engine of taking stuff apart with the resonant act of creating stories that reimagine existing narratives of power could be an important experiment.

Mark and I built a workshop we call “Taking Apart Racism: Using Maker-Centered Practices to Break Down Systems of Oppression.” The heart of the workshop is the idea that looking closely and exploring the complexity of an object can create a bridge of metaphor that helps us understand a system of racial oppression.  If we build the connection between these two systems—the system of the object and the system of oppression—then we can see the oppressive system in a new light and probe new possibilities.

thinking routines“聯系互動” 的思考模式

“聯系互動” 的思考模式

這個思考模式鼓勵學生能夠慢下来,仔细觀察其中一個系统。通過這樣幫助學生更好地認識具體系統裡無論是直接或間接相關的人物,學生也會注意到系统裡任何一點變化,也許都會有意無意地影響到系统的其它方面。

Field NoteMaking Circuits Work: A Learning Journey

Making Circuits Work: A Learning Journey

Agency by Design researcher Jessica Ross explores circuitry by engaging in a hands-on journey to build a flashing LED light from scratch.

pictures of practiceT-Stool Project

T-Stool Project

In this picture of practice essay, educators Ilya Pratt and Jeanine Harmon share a community “Design + Build” project. Fourth and fifth grade students from North Oakland Charter School and Park Day School find an opportunity to work together to build T-Stools for classrooms.

publicationsMaker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds

Maker-Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their Worlds

The Agency by Design guide to implementing maker-centered teaching and learning

Maker-Centered Learning provides both a theoretical framework and practical resources for the educators, curriculum developers, librarians, administrators, and parents navigating this burgeoning field. Written by the expert team from the Agency by Design initiative at Harvard's Project Zero, this book

  • Identifies a set of educational practices and ideas that define maker-centered learning, and introduces the focal concepts of maker empowerment and sensitivity to design.
  • Shares cutting edge research that provides evidence of the benefits of maker-centered learning for students and education as a whole.
  • Presents a clear Project Zero-based framework for maker-centered teaching and learning
  • Includes valuable educator resources that can be applied in a variety of design and maker-centered learning environments
  • Describes unique thinking routines that foster the primary maker capacities of looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity.

A surge of voices from government, industry, and education have argued that, in order to equip the next generation for life and work in the decades ahead, it is vital to support maker-centered learning in various educational environments. Maker-Centered Learning provides insight into what that means, and offers tools and knowledge that can be applied anywhere that learning takes place.