When Makerspaces Meet School: Negotiating Tensions Between Instruction and Construction

  • Michael TanEmail author


When considering science education within the makerspace (engineering workshop) context, insufficient attention may be paid to the cultural models organising the learning activity in such spaces. Too often, learning is imagined to be orchestrated by instructors, and students are supposed to passively respond to activities and events planned on their behalf; even when constructivist approaches are considered, curriculum goals are seldom negotiated, let alone led by student interests. We report on a case study of school which designed a learning organisation around a makerspace, built upon a hacker model of learning. Here, we used the benign version of hack, meaning to reverse- and creatively engineer devices to suit one’s goals. While it may appear that less ‘teaching’ is required, the tasks required to effectively remove the supports, and yet achieve learning, are non-trivial indeed. We found three practices that defined such a space: (i) a significant ludic component, (ii) highly authentic scientific practices, and (iii) attention to tacit knowledges in learning the practices of science. We argue that the mythologies surrounding the hacker stereotype have made an impartial consideration of hacking difficult, and that one effective way of using makerspaces for science instruction can be based on a reimagined set of goals for science. Specifically, attention needs to be paid towards the performative aspects of scientific knowledge in addition to competence in the representations of science.


Makerspaces Hackers Cultural design Learning environments STEM education 



I would like to acknowledge the contribution of Deborah Fields who provided assistance in the early conceptualisation of this manuscript. I am also thankful to the anonymous reviewers whose insights have improved the quality of this manuscript. National Institute of Education (Singapore)

Funding Information

This research has been supported by funding from the Ministry of Education, Singapore. Grant number ERFP OER 12/14 MT. The opinions here are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect that of the funding source.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research on human subjects has been approved by the Institutional Review Board of the Nanyang Technological University. All participants have provided informed consent for participation in this study. No sufficiently identifiable information about participants has been included in this manuscript.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Research in Pedagogy and Practice, National Institute of EducationNanyang Technological UniversitySingaporeSingapore

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