User Generated Education

Education as it should be – passion-based.

Maker Education and Experiential Education

with 8 comments

As those who follow me on Twitter and via this blog know, I am an advocate of the Maker Education movement.  The reason, as I’ve mentioned, is that I come from a background in Experiential Education.  Many of underlying principles and learning activities related to maker education fit nicely into the tenets and principles related to experiential education.  Since this discipline-learning philosophy has been around a lot longer than the more formalized, current maker education movement, those attempting to move maker education into more traditional educational settings might draw from the writings and literature of experiential education to help explain and contextualized maker education.

Experiential Education, Maker Education, and John Dewey


Many look at the philosophy and writings of John Dewey as providing the foundation of experiential education.

For Dewey, experiences could be judged to be educative if they led to further growth, intellectually and morally; if there was a benefit to the community; and if the experience resulted in affective qualities that led to continued growth, such as curiosity, initiative, and a sense of purpose. (Experiential Education – Brief History of the Role of Experience in Education, Roles for the Teacher and the Student)

There is a congruence between these ideas proposed by Dewey and the Maker Mindset as discussed by Dale Dougherty, founder of Maker Media:

Fostering the maker mindset through education is a fundamentally human project to support the growth and development of another person not just physically, but mentally and emotionally. Learning should focus on the whole person because any truly creative enterprise requires all of us, not just some part. It is the difference between a child who is directed to perform a task and one who is self-directed to figure out what to do. That kind of transformation, that kind of personal and social change, is what making is about. (The Maker Mindset)

Paula Hogg in her post Why Dewey would applaud the maker movement in schools provides more insights about the connection of Dewey’s ideas with Maker Education.

In a maker environment children are at the center of the learning and it’s the child’s interests that drive the activities. This echoes the thinking of John Dewey John Dewey who said in My Pedagogical Creed “The child’s own instincts and powers furnish the material and give the starting point for all education”  Dewey believed that all too often children are passively absorbing facts from the teacher and learning through play, exploration and inquiry is sidelined for strict discipline. Instead he thinks school should be places where children are actively learning through their own experience and working together helping one another and sharing the tasks. Doing and learning through play, tinkering, exploring and making are critical components of maker education.

Dewey also believed that the problem with traditional schooling is that it disjointed from the real workings of the world and therefore cannot prepare children for their adult lives. He goes on to say: “I believe that the school must represent present life – life as real and vital to the child as that which he carries on in the home, in the neighborhood, or on the play-ground” Central to the maker pedagogy is that learning must be meaningful and have a purpose for the child. It is about creating meaningful products – not just doing for the sake of doing. Children must be involved in tasks that include real life problem solving that is relevant and meaningful to them and their world. (Why Dewey would applaud the maker movement in schools)

The Practices of Experiential Education as Applied to Maker Education

The Association for Experiential Education, established in the early 1970s, proposed that the following principles mark the practice of Experiential Education.  I took liberty in highlighting those phrases/practices that I believe also characterize Maker Education.

  • Experiences are structured to require the learners to take initiative, make decisions and be accountable for results.
  • Throughout the experiential learning process, the learner is actively engaged in posing questions, investigating, experimenting, being curious, solving problems, assuming responsibility, being creative, and constructing meaning.
  • Learners are engaged intellectually, emotionally, socially, soulfully and/or physically. This involvement produces a perception that the learning task is authentic.
  • The results of the learning are personal and form the basis for future experience and learning.
  • Relationships are developed and nurtured: learner to self, learner to others and learner to the world at large.
  • The educators and learners may experience success, failure, adventure, risk-taking and uncertainty, because the outcomes of experience cannot totally be predicted.
  • The educator’s primary roles include setting suitable experiences, posing problems, setting boundaries, supporting learners, insuring physical and emotional safety, and facilitating the learning process.
  • The educator recognizes and encourages spontaneous opportunities for learning.
  • The design of the learning experience includes the possibility to learn from natural consequences, mistakes and successes.

Maker Education as Experiential Education    


Written by Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

June 22, 2014 at 6:22 pm

8 Responses

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  1. I’m on the same page as you Jackie. Good ideas never seem to fully die, although we sometimes bury them. The truly relevant ones always pop back up, but why don’t more people concerned bout educating the children of today see this. I go back to the days of the ‘open classroom’ taught the way it was meant to be and welcome the Maker Movement to form a partner with all our technology exploration. Next year we have formed a partnership with the Maker Lab at the Peabody Essex Museum in our community. Canj’t wait.


    June 22, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    • I promote any current trend that helps us get back to what I consider primary education – hands-on with sweat and grind; creativity; ahas; and lots of self-directed discoveries! Good luck with the partnership.

      Jackie Gerstein, Ed.D.

      June 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

  2. Nice connections. I can’t tell you how many teachers say to me -” it’s great this Maker stuff is getting a lot of publicity, but these are things I used to do in my classroom, and now I’m not allowed to.”

    They see it as a waste of time because they know that their administration really isn’t going to let them do things that aren’t on the test. Sometimes I tell that I see it as a Trojan Horse to bring back the stuff they used to do.

  3. Maker education closely associated with STEM learning, is an approach to problem-based and project-based learning that relies upon hands-on, often collaborative, learning experiences as a method for solving authentic problems. I think is a great method of teach and learn a new thing or language.


    January 15, 2018 at 7:09 pm

  4. When you give something for somebody to do, usually the person tries his/her best no to disappoint anybody. Learning with STEAM is quite the same thing. And moreover, when we do any activity, first of all we do no want to disappoint ourselves.


    January 18, 2018 at 8:43 pm

  5. KIds develop a bigger interest and motivation through the Maker Movement by developing their maker skills and learning how to support the environment and the world around them.


    January 20, 2018 at 12:50 pm

  6. It’s easier for the kids to learn through the Maker Movement, because they can develop skills.


    January 24, 2018 at 2:34 am

  7. Maker movement is an approach that encourages teachers and students to create and learn through the experience of making, instead of analyzing and observing only.


    January 26, 2018 at 11:42 am

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