How Preservice Elementary Teachers’ Design and Facilitation of a Maker Faire Activity Contributes to Differences in Children’s Learning
Science education is changing. With the release of the Next Generation Science Standards [NGSS], K-12 teachers are expected to engage students in the practices of scientists and engineers to make sense of disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts (NGSS Lead States, 2013). Simultaneously, there is a push to expose students to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) in an integrated manner (Honey, Pearson & Schweingruber, 2014). The Maker Movement is one initiative that has received attention for its potential to transform STEM learning (Vossoughi & Bevan, 2014). This movement has spurred the creation of educative making as a pedagogical approach to engage students in integrated STEM learning experiences while still meeting the NGSS’ performance expectations (Bevan, 2017). Currently, scant research exists on how to prepare teachers to facilitate these types of learning experiences in ways that result in rich learning experiences, especially at the preservice level. This study aims to close that gap.
I investigated how the design and facilitation of two science activities at a Maker Faire impacted opportunities for children’s learning. The activities were designed and facilitated by preservice elementary school teachers enrolled in a university Science Methods course as part of their requirements to earn a Multiple Subjects (Elementary School) Teaching Credential and Master of Education in Teaching degree (M.Ed.). Preservice teachers worked in small groups to design and facilitate their NGSS-aligned activity as the culminating assignment for their Science Methods course. The primary audience for the event was elementary school students enrolled in the preservice teachers’ student-teaching classrooms. Using a case study model, I focused on two preservice teachers who worked in different groups, Ms. Sarah and Ms. Maggie. Ms. Sarah and her group members’ station featured a slime making activity for children to learn about different states of matter. Ms. Maggie and her group members’ station provided opportunities for children to tinker with various materials to develop models of magnetism.
Using previous frameworks (e.g., Bevan, Ryoo, Vanderwerff, Wilkinson & Petrich, 2017), I analyzed the design of activity, facilitation, and resulting indicators of children’s learning through detailed video analysis (Erickson, 2006). The slime station was designed to resemble a factory line, requiring all children to work through the same set of pre-defined steps to create the teacher’s anticipated version of slime. This resulted in Ms. Sarah and her group members emphasizing procedures, providing more direct instruction and asking more close-ended questions. This, in turn, caused children to frequently ask questions to ensure they were following the correct procedures specified by the teachers. In contrast, the magnetism station featured a series of smaller activities, differentiated to allow for multiple pathways based on each child. Ms. Maggie and her group members asked more open-ended questions, used less direct instruction, encouraged risk-taking and experimentation, engaged with observations more often, and frequently changed their instruction based on children’s ideas. This resulted in children demonstrating higher instances of conceptual understanding than was observed at the slime station. Moreover, children who visited the magnetism station showed significantly more indicators of learning than children who visited the slime station, t(22) = 2.5, p = .019. Implications for educators and teacher educators are shared in the discussion, as well as future directions for research.