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Learning Through STEM-Rich Tinkering: Findings From a Jointly Negotiated Research Project Taken Up in Practice


"The Maker Movement has taken the educational field by storm due to its perceived potential as a driver of creativity, excitement, and innovation (Honey & Kanter, 2013; Martinez & Stager, 2013). Making is promoted as advancing entrepreneurship, developing science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce, and supporting compelling inquiry-based learning experiences for young people. In this paper, we focus on making as an educative inquiry-based practice, and specifically tinkering as a branch of making that emphasizes creative, improvisational problem solving. STEM-rich tinkering activities are designed to support interdisciplinary investigations and creativity using a STEM-rich palette of tools, concepts, and phenomena. To date, the majority of research on making has focused on analysis of makerspaces, maker communities, and design and implementation of maker activities. In this paper, we describe a study that documented dimensions of learning in tinkering programs designed for museum visitors. The study, which was jointly negotiated among a team of researchers and practitioners, led to the development of a Tinkering Learning Dimensions Framework and a publicly available video library of tinkering exemplars, both of which are being actively used by tinkering practitioners in their direct service to the public and professional development work for the field."