Skip main navigation

How to Assess Learning in Makerspaces

When there are specific learning objectives to achieve, assessment of learning is relatively straightforward. However, what happens when the making is more exploratory and open-ended?
A handmade sign advertises workshop classes
© The University of Sheffield

When there are specific learning objectives to achieve, assessment of learning is relatively straightforward. However, what happens when the making is more exploratory and open-ended?

Standardised assessment struggles to capture the creativity and artistic benefits of makerspaces, including the difficult-to-measure, qualitative pedagogic and leadership skills that children regularly demonstrate during makerspace activities.
David Hyatt, Makerspaces and Assessment, pg 87

How Can We Assess Learning in Makerspaces?

Here are some approaches you could try.

Self or peer assessment

Ask the children to identify the skills/ knowledge they wish to gain, and then engage in self or peer-assessment to reflect on the extent to which these were achieved. Children may then record their learning in portfolios.

Learning stories

Learning stories involve observing and documenting learning and then writing that up in a narrative format (Carr, 2001). Stories can then be shared with children and parents.

The mosaic approach

This involves listening to children and capturing evidence of their achievements in the round through visual as well as oral means (Clark and Moss, 2011).

Demonstrating Characteristics of Effective Learning (COEL)

An approach undertaken in the MakEY project was to assess how far engagement in makerspaces developed the ‘Characteristics of Effective Learning’ (COEL). These characteristics are embedded in non-statutory guidance to support the implantation of England’s Early Years Foundation Stage Curriculum for 3-5 year-olds.
This guidance suggests that there are three key areas in which children can demonstrate effective learning practices/ dispositions:
Playing and exploring – engagement
Finding out and exploring
Playing with what they know
Being willing to ‘have a go’
Active learning – motivation
Being involved and concentrating
Keeping trying
Enjoying achieving what they set out to do
Creating and thinking critically – thinking
Having their own ideas
Making links
Choosing ways to do things
Early Education (2017) Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

The Makerspace Learning Assessment Framework

The University of Sheffield team built on these Characteristics of Effective Learning to develop the ‘Makerspace Learning Assessment Framework’ (MLAF) (Kay et al., 2019), incorporating prompt questions for assessing how far children demonstrate COEL that had been previously devised by a team based in Bristol City Council.
When developing MLAF, the team felt that creativity deserved a specific focus, separate from critical thinking, given how important creativity is in the making process. In addition, the team felt that creativity should be linked to design, as design skills are an important element of creative production in makerspaces. Further, as social learning is significant in makerspaces, this aspect was added.
Therefore, whilst COEL was a starting point for MLAF, it moved beyond the original framework to incorporate elements that are important when capturing learning in makerspaces.
This framework has been used successfully in a number of MakerFutures and MakEY projects. The outcomes have indicated that makerspaces foster all characteristics of effective learning. In particular, they enable children to demonstrate achievement in the categories of critical thinking and creativity and design.
What do you think?
Do you have any ideas for how learning can be assessed in makerspaces?

References

Carr, M. (2001) Assessment in Early Childhood Settings: Learning Stories London: Sage.

Clark, A. and Moss, P. (2011) Listening to Young Children: The Mosaic approach. (2nd ed.). London: National Children’s Bureau.

Early Education (2017) Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Hyatt. D. (2017) Assessment. (pp86-88) in J. Marsh, K. Kumpulainen, B. Nisha, A. Velicu, A. Blum-Ross, D. Hyatt, S.R. Jónsdóttir…and G. Thorsteinsson, Makerspaces in the Early Years: A Literature Review. University of Sheffield: MakEY Project.

© The University of Sheffield
This article is from the free online

Makerspaces for Creative Learning

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education