This research paper examines a professor’s pedagogical adjustments over two semesters teaching a course that included a project in the university makerspace. In recent years, substantial resources have been invested into makerspaces in higher education with the underlying assumption that their creation will lead to experiences that ignite interest and engagement in engineering. In particular, university affiliated makerspaces have the potential to support innovation and design alongside the undergraduate engineering curriculum. the instructor’s perspective is vital to support engineering students in their use of these spaces. To better understand these strategies, this paper uses a descriptive case-study approach to identify lessons learned to encourage student engagement in a university makerspace. This research used qualitative methods and was guided by the following research question:
• What is the professor experience across two semesters in teaching a course that incorporates a project in the makerspace?
During the Spring and Fall of 2019, researchers conducted two semi-structured interviews, 6 observations, and collected student artifacts from two civil engineering courses. A faculty member, Dr. Cook, at a large research university who received an institutional grant to support the design and implementation of a class project which utilized the makerspace, was the faculty participant. Dr. Cook’s investment in project design and outcomes gave researchers the opportunity to observe the impact of iteration and intention in designing and implementing course projects that utilized the university makerspace.
Observations of class presentations and final projects demonstrated a difference in project quality from the first semester to the second semester. One of the essential institutional supports that encouraged both professor and student engagement in the project was the funding used to employ a teaching assistant (TA) familiar with the subject matter and content of the course as well as the makerspace. From Spring 2019 to Fall 2019, Dr. Cook had thought that an overhaul of her project would be necessary to generate more engagement and output from students. Instead of these large changes, researchers alongside Dr. Cook found that familiarity with the makerspace, prior experience with an open-ended project, and peer support for students seemed to produce superior student engagement and output without vast pedagogical shifts.
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