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Ask A REL Response

March 2020


What research has been conducted on how community colleges using makerspaces to supplement their existing curriculum--especially STEM courses?


Following an established REL Southeast research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on how community colleges using makerspaces to supplement their existing curriculum--especially STEM courses. We focused on identifying resources that specifically addressed how community colleges using makerspaces to supplement their existing curriculum--especially STEM courses. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (For details, please see the methods section at the end of this memo.)

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your reference. These references are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. Also, we searched the references in the response from the most commonly used resources of research, but they are not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist."

Research References

  1. Higgins, T. B., Beck-Winchatz, B., Davis, M., & Kruger, A. (2018). Undergraduate research in high-altitude ballooning at an urban community college. Scholarship and Practice of Undergraduate Research, 1(3), 57-65.
    From the abstract: "The authors describe an undergraduate research program at the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) organized around high-altitude ballooning and carried out primarily in an open, maker-space environment. Two cohorts of students were recruited. They undertook projects in biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental science, and physics. Via the Undergraduate Research Student Self-Assessment, both cohorts reported positive gains. The 2016 cohort was assessed immediately after the program ended, and the 2015 cohort was assessed one year afterward, suggesting the benefits of the program persisted for at least a year. Longitudinal data showed that the students completed degrees or transferred at rates higher than the general CCC student population. These data indicate that students benefited from their experiences and developed identities as scientists and engineers."
  2. Sheffield, R., Koul, R., Blackley, S., & Maynard, N. (2017). Makerspace in STEM for girls: A physical space to develop twenty-first-century skills. Educational Media International, 54(2), 148-164.
    From the abstract: "'Makerspace'" has been lauded as a new way forward to create communities, empower students and bring together enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels "to tinker" and create. Makerspace education has been touted as having the potential to empower young people to become agents of change in their communities. This paper examines how a 'Makerspace' approach can capture the imagination and creativity of female primary school students, and engage them in integrated STEM-based projects. The study scaffolded female tertiary undergraduate students to mentor small groups of girls to complete a project in a STEM 'Makerspace' situated in classrooms. The data generated and analysed from this study were used to determine how 'Makerspace' STEM-based projects were enacted, how they engaged and supported the girls' learning, and considers the future of a 'Makerspace' approach as a way to progress integrated STEM education."
  3. Taheri, P., Robbins, P., & Maalej, S. (2020). Makerspaces in first-year engineering education. Education Sciences, 10(8).
    From the abstract: "Langara College, as one of the leading undergraduate institutions in the province of British Columbia (BC), offers the 'Applied Science for Engineering' two-year diploma program as well as the "Engineering Transfer" two-semester certificate program. Three project-based courses are offered as part of the two-year diploma program in Applied Science (APSC) and Computer Science (CPSC) departments: 'APSC 1010--Engineering and Technology in Society', 'CPSC 1090--Engineering Graphics', and "CPSC 1490--Applications of Microcontrollers", with CPSC 1090 and CPSC 1490 also part of the Engineering Transfer curriculum. Although the goals, scopes, objectives, and evaluation criteria of these courses are different, the main component of all three courses is a group-based technical project. Engineering students have access to Langara College's Makerspace for the hands-on component of their project. Makerspaces expand experiential learning opportunities and allows students to gain a skillset outside the traditional classroom. This paper begins with a detailed review of the maker movement and the impact of makerspace in higher education. Different forms of makerspace and the benefits of incorporating them on first-year students' creativity, sense of community, self-confidence, and entrepreneurial skills are discussed. This paper introduces Langara's engineering program and its project-based design courses. Langara's interdisciplinary makerspace, its goals and objectives, equipment, and some sample projects are introduced in this paper in detail. We then explain how the group-project component of APSC 1010, CPSC 1090, and CPSC 1490 are managed and how using makerspace improves students' performance in such projects. In conclusion, the paper describes the evaluation of learning outcomes via an anonymous student survey."


Keywords and Search Strings
The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Makerspaces
  • Community colleges, maker spaces
  • Maker spaces and two-year colleges
  • Maker movement
  • Makerspaces, student achievement

Databases and Resources
We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published for last 15 years, from 2003 to present, were include in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations, academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: Following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types - randomized control trials,, quasi experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc. (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Southeast Region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, and South Carolina), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast at Florida State University. This memorandum was prepared by REL Southeast under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0011, administered by Florida State University. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.