Creating Learner Driven Curriculum

Educator remixes an existing lesson plan to include new aspects of maker education.
Made by Maker Ed
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Graduate-level credit is available for this micro-credential. You can apply for credit through one of our university partners after successfully completing the micro-credential.
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About this Micro-credential

Key Method

Educator includes aspects of maker-centered learning into an existing lesson plan.

Method Components

The latest research by Harvard’s Agency by Design Project shares strategies for designing maker-centered learning experiences. They describe the ways in which “both teaching and learning in the maker-centered classroom highlight the importance of learning with and from others.” The emphasis is “...placed on sharing knowledge, expertise, and information,” and “there is an added element of figuring it out...wherein young people are encouraged to tinker, prototype, iterate, and experiment throughout the making and learning process.”

What Does Teaching Look Like in the Maker-Centered Classroom?
(Outline from Agency by Design)

  • Facilitating Student Collaboration
    • “Teachers structure assignments and projects to encourage students to work together in a variety of formal and informal ways, and provide ongoing support for them to do so.”
  • Encouraging Co-inspiration
    • “Teachers design instruction so that students are encouraged to engage with and derive inspiration from one another’s work.”
  • Encouraging Co-critique
    • “Teachers provide strategies and support for students to give each other informative, useful, and generous feedback.”
  • Redirecting Authority
    • & ldquo;Teachers actively redirect students away from the fallback of ‘teacher as the authoritative dispenser of knowledge’ and toward other authorities, especially other students and online resources.”
  • Promoting an Ethic of Knowledge-Sharing
    • “Teachers take a ‘learn something, teach something’ approach to encourage students to feel a sense of responsibility to share their newly developing skills and knowledge with others, especially other students in the maker-centered classroom.” (Agency by Design)

Developing this type of learning experience does not mean taking on an entirely new approach to teaching. You don’t need to start from scratch or try something completely new. Many of the activities, lesson plans, or practices you already use can be easily modified by employing some of the ideas and learning approaches that apply to maker education. It takes time and experimentation to find the approach that works best for you, your learners, and the ultimate learning goals of your space. In this case, small design changes in a lesson can lead to big leaps in learning (Chang, et al. 41-50).

In order to create open-ended, learner-driven experiences that allow time and space for the development of diverse skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking, maker educators should look for ways to step back during discussions, explore a variety of roles while leading activities, and critically explore the language they use.

Some key questions to ask yourself as you explore opportunities to adjust your lesson plan:

  • ROLE: As an educator, how can I change the role I play in this activity to create a more learner-driven experience? Think about these different roles you might be able to take on as an educator. Descriptions of educator roles are drawn from the Makerspace Playbook, School Edition:
    • “Project Manager” – Help learners set goals, oversee teams of learners, project plans and schedules, provide feedback. Remember to leave space for teams to make independent discoveries.
    • “Principal Investigator” – Think about yourself as the head of a research lab. Learners should have space to explore their interests and pursue projects generally of their own design, as graduate student researchers might in a university lab. Give learners opportunities to learn from each other, but check in regularly with advice/feedback.
    • “Coach” – “It requires a certain economy of talk and limited praise with a lot of thought going into how to convey lot of information with minimal interaction, i.e., giving feedback without riding the players too much. The best coaches learn what works well with their players and improve their curriculum and technique from season to season.”
    • “Research Librarian” – Like a librarian, a teacher can listen to needs, desires, and interests of learners, and then help connect them with resources that might be most helpful or interesting. A librarian makes suggestions, guides a patron in the right direction, and then steps back. Give learners guidance, but allow them to take next steps independently (17-21).
  • Inquiry: Are there areas in the lesson where you can ask questions in a new or different way? Opportunities to transfer ownership of the discussion to the learners? Explore some of these different methods of inquiry as you remix your lesson (Bell, Binns, and Smetana)

  • Confirmational: Learners are taught a concept, then posed a question and given an activity that leads them to the new concept and solidifies their knowledge.

  • Structured: Learners are provided with a question and an outline for an experiment or activity and asked to respond. Learning occurs through the processes of investigation and exploration as learners seek answers to facilitator’s question.

  • Guided:Facilitator presents questions or just the broad genre of a project. Learners are then responsible for devising a project or experiment through which they will explore the question/challenge.

  • Open: Learners are given the opportunity to devise their own questions, projects, experiments, explorations, and conclusions.

  • Language: How can I incorporate language into my lesson that “discourages single-word responses (e.g., yes, no, OK, sure) and instead motivates action and engagement?” (Chang et al. 51) Explore the scenarios presented in Appendix D (See Resources section) as well as the discussion of language on p. 51 of the Youth Makerspace playbook.

Maker Ed’s Youth Makerspace Playbook describes language as “...perhaps the most important and powerful tool used within any makerspace. Words have the power to invite, inspire, and potentiate but also to shut down and exclude...Consider the difference between “That’s awesome! Good job!” and “Wow, I see a huge amount of careful stitching! How did you develop the pattern to create such an intricate design? It looks super tricky. Could you show me more about how you did it? What would you think about helping others if they need it?” (Chang et al. 51)

Remember it’s OK to start small. Begin with a few changes that you believe will positively impact the ways in which your group of learners engage with a project or lesson, and incorporate aspects of maker education.

Research & Resources

Supporting Research

  • Agency by Design.“The Promises, Practices, and Pedagogies of Maker-Centered Learning: An Updated Preview of the Findings from the Agency by Design Project.” Agency by Design, 8 Aug. 2016,
  • Chang, Stephanie, Steve Davee, Maker Ed, Goli Mohammadi, Lisa Regalla. Youth Makerspace Playbook. Maker Education Initiative, 2015.
  • Martinez, Sylvia Libow, and Gary Stager. Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, 2013.
  • Makerspace Team & MENTOR Makerspace Pilot Educators. Makerspace Playbook, School Edition. Maker Media, 2013.
  • Gallimore, Ronald, and Ronald Tharp. “What a Coach Can Teach a Teacher, 1975-2004: Reflections and Reanalysis of John Wooden’s Teaching Practices.” The Sports Psychologist, 18, 2004, 119-137.
  • Flores, Christa. “Fostering a Constructionist Learning Environment: The Qualities of a Maker Educator. “Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs + Makerspaces, edited by Paulo Blikstein, Sylvia Libow Martinez, and Heather Allen Pang, Constructing Modern Knowledge Press, 2016, 17-18.


Submission Requirements

Submission Guidelines & Evaluation Criteria

Following are the items you must submit to earn this micro-credential and the criteria by which they will be evaluated. To earn the micro-credential, you must receive a passing evaluation for Parts 1 and 3 as well as a “Yes” for each component in Part 2.

Part 1. Overview Questions

(200-word limit total per response):

  • In what type of learning environment do you work? (school, after-school, library, museum, etc.)
  • Age/grade level of your learners?
  • What subject(s) do you teach?
  • Do you currently incorporate making into your program? If not, why are you interested in incorporating making into your program/curriculum?
  • What is the overall learning objective and/or goal for the lesson you remixed?

Part 2. Work Examples/Artifacts

  1. The original lesson plan (or portion of a lesson plan), and the remixed lesson with changes noted.
  2. Remixed lesson plan must reflect on one of the following:
    • Educator takes on a new role as they facilitate the lesson plan. Educator must submit written description (300 words max) of the specific ways in which they changed their role, and the method-backed reasons for making the changes.
    • Educator introduces new forms of inquiry into their lesson plan. Educator must submit written description (300 words max) of the specific ways in which they explored new or different methods of inquiry, and the method-backed reasons for making the changes.
  3. Remixed lesson should also meet the following requirement:
    • Educators should find opportunities throughout their lesson plan to think critically about the language they use, and make adjustments that encourage action and engagement. Educators must note in their lesson plan or otherwise document specific moments where they used or plan to adjust the language used to facilitate.

Part 3. Educator Reflection

(300-word limit per response):

  • In what ways do you feel the aspects of maker education that you brought into your lesson plan will help meet your desired learning outcomes?
  • How did the changes you made impact the ways in which learners engaged with the lesson/activity?
  • How was the experience for you as a facilitator? What were some challenges you faced? What do you feel was successful about the changes you made?
  • What steps will you take to continue bringing the ideas and learning approaches that make up maker education into your lessons and activities?

Except where otherwise noted, this work is licensed under:
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


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How to prepare for and earn this micro-credential - in a downloadable PDF document

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