The motivation for this work is based on the rapidly growing makerspace movement on university campuses with the simultaneous shift in enrollment of students from underrepresented groups in engineering degrees across the United States. How we conceptualize equity within makerspaces and in the field of engineering education is important as we engage in efforts to attract, retain, and sustain the success of students from non-dominant groups in engineering. But, conceptualizing equity within university makerspaces is an ongoing, large ask. We argue that we must first name the design tensions present in university makerspaces, to best position ourselves toward the design and implementation of equitable interventions in university makerspaces.
We propose an in-progress, practice-facing equity bifocals framework to help the engineering education community conceptualize equity in university makerspaces. We then provide one detailed illustration (using data from our ethnographic fieldwork) that exemplifies how we might use the framework to (a) identify generous and critical interpretations of a makerspace and (b) discuss design tensions.
An equity bifocals framework can help those interested in exploring equity within engineering education to both see more clearly what is going on in university makerspaces (honoring the work through a generative lens) and make sense of the questions we still have to address in the ongoing effort to design equitable makerspaces (proposing future action through a critical lens). We offer this practice-facing framework while being cognizant of existing efforts makerspace practitioners are currently engaging in to promote equity.
If we have (as we do) a goal of proposing ways in which issues of equity might be addressed in makerspaces, it is helpful to first have a framework to guide our efforts. The in-progress, practice-facing equity bifocals framework we introduce in this work could help the engineering education community work from a similar language when discussing equity strategies, decisions, and implications in a university makerspace. We propose that with this practice-facing equity bifocals framework we are better equipped to make more judicious and intentional decisions in the design of university makerspaces as we seek ways of improving spaces to be more equitable.
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