University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign


Part of the National Science Foundation Discovery Research K-12 program, the MAPLE project sought to understand barriers to STEM learning in public school makerspace classrooms.


Last Updated October 2018

The makerspace movement has gained recognition and momentum, which has resulted in many schools integrating makerspace technologies and related curricular practices into the classroom. Our study focuses narrowly on establishing a foundational understanding of how to ameliorate barriers to engaging in makerspace learning in public school STEM classrooms through the use of metacognitive strategies. The MAPLE project aspires to translate and apply research on the use of metacognitive strategies in supporting struggling learners to develop approaches that teachers can implement to increase opportunities for students who are the most difficult to reach academically.

Our work is part of the National Science Foundation Discovery Research K-12 program (DRK-12), which seeks to significantly enhance the learning and teaching of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) by preK-12 students and teachers, through research and development of innovative resources, models and tools (RMTs).

Research Questions

The aim of our research is to answer preliminary questions about instructional strategies to support students with learning disabilities  in classroom-based makerspace activities:

  1. What learning barriers are present during the design-redesign and problem/project process common to makerspace and early STEM experiences, especially for struggling learners?
  2. How can instruction that supports metacognitive strategies be integrated within typical K-12 classroom makerspace activities to address those barriers?
  3. How can the effectiveness of those strategies be evaluated by measuring engagement and learning?

We believe this work is particularly salient given national efforts that inform DRK-12 research, such as the Reinforcing Education Accountability in Development (READ) Act, which stresses the development of comprehensive strategies to address key barriers to retention and completion (HR601).

Resources for Teachers

Our team is actively engaged in professional development with our partner middle school teachers. So far all we have ready for the public is a preliminary worksheet for curriculum development: Project Scaffolding for a Universal Design Approach to Making.

Research Team

Full Award Posting and Initial Proposal

Open Access Data Collection Instruments

As an interdisciplinary team of social scientists, MAPLE seeks to better understand our core research questions by triangulating data from several sources. Therefore our team has deployed multiple instruments to measure metacognitive processes in two populations of struggling learners in middle schools: (1) students with learning disabilities, and (2) students at risk for academic failure. Data collection is focused on the following: persistence (attitudes about making), iteration (productive struggle) and intentionality (plan with incremental steps). Because of the exploratory nature of this study, we are actively engaged in a process to discover, comprehend and reconcile constructs related to metacognition as they are revealed through the course of the study. As one might guess, it’s hard to measure any single one of these processes with just one kind of data-collection instrument. As a result, we are gathering a variety of data (see the proposal or annual report above for details) and have worked closely with our evaluator on validation and reliability issues. The following research instruments are available under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License:
Ultimately, we hope this work will result in an evidence base around new instructional practices for middle school students who are struggling learners, so that they can experience more success during maker learning experiences.