by David Consalvi (Rock Hill Schools, SC)
How can we help teachers of every discipline see the value in learning-through-making? At Rock Hill School District’s summer professional development sessions, we have used the “Parts, Purposes, Complexities” thinking routine to help educators develop a maker mindset of their own.
Parts, Purposes, Complexities is a protocol (developed by Harvard University’s Agency by Design research group) for guiding inquiry into all manner of things: physical objects, complex systems, works of art, historical documents — anything, really. This process nurtures the key maker competencies that Agency by Design has identified in its research: looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity. By using this protocol with teachers, we invite them to develop these competencies themselves and reflect on the kind of critical thinking that maker learning can bring to their classrooms. We can see the success of these sessions in the conversations they spark and the lessons teachers plan afterwards.
Not all classrooms integrate maker learning with the same tools or projects. Instead, what they share is a common approach to need-finding and problem-solving. Try using the Parts, Purposes, Complexities thinking routine with your faculty and see if they might also relish the chance to be makers themselves by looking closely, exploring complexity, and finding opportunity.
When working with teachers, this activity is not finished when participants have documented and shared the fruits of their inquiry — it’s over after they have had time to reflect on the experience and discuss it with each other. This processing time is crucial for maker learning projects, and so it is similarly important to create this time and model best practices for teachers.
Consider a few conversation starters that may help start a wrap-up discussion:
How can this activity inform what teachers do in the classroom next? Allot time for more discussion about how educators will integrate a maker approach into their own classrooms:
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