Studying the Role of Failure in Design and Making

Saturday, October 1, 2016 to Sunday, September 30, 2018
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Project Descriptions
Environment Type: 
Public Programs, Making and Tinkering Programs
Middle School Children (11-13) | Youth/Teen (up to 17) | Educators/Teachers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Learning Researchers
Art, music, and theater | Computing and information science | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Technology
Access and Inclusion: 
English Language Learners
Low Socioeconomic Status
Indiana University, Science Museum of Minnesota

While the term 'failure' brings to mind negative associations, there is a current focus on failure as a driver of innovation and development in many professional fields. It is also emerging from prior research that for STEM professionals and educators, failure plays an important role in designing and making to increase learning, persistence and other noncognitive skills such as self-efficacy and independence. By investigating how youth and educators attend to moments of failure, how they interpret what this means, and how they respond, we will be better able to understand the dynamics of each part of the experience. The research team will be working with youth from urban, suburban and rural settings, students from Title I schools or who qualify for free/reduced-price lunches, those from racial and ethnic minority groups, as well as students who are learning English as a second language. These youth are from groups traditionally underrepresented in STEM and in making, and research indicates they are more likely to experience negative outcomes when they experience failure.

The intellectual merit of this project centers on establishing a baseline understanding of how failure in making is triggered and experienced by youth, what role educators play in the process, and what can be done to increase persistence and learning, rather than failure being an end-state. The research team will investigate these issues through the use of qualitative and quantitative research methods. In particular, the team will design and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions on increasing the abilities of youth and educators in noticing and responding to failures and increasing positive (e.g., resilience) outcomes. Research sites are selected because they will allow collection of data on youth from a wide range of backgrounds. The research team will also work to test and revise their hypothesized model of the influence of factors on persistence through failures in making. This project is a part of NSF's Maker Dear Colleague Letter (DCL) portfolio (NSF 15-086), a collaborative investment of Directorates for Computer & Information Science & Engineering (CISE), Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Engineering (ENG).

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Team Members

Adam MaltesePrincipal Investigator
Amber SimpsonAmber SimpsonCo-Principal Investigator
Alice AndersonPrincipal Investigator

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