Assessing in a maker environment: a learning process

Scantron Test

Scantron Test

Learning. Testing. Feedback. On-going. Self-reflection. Formative. Summative. Rubric. Exit Slip. Standardized. These are some words that come to mind when I think about the concept of assessment.

Assessment is essential to learning.  When interrelated with curriculum and instruction, constant, appropriate assessment becomes a powerful tool to support student growth and learning (Harada & Yoshina, 2005).  Harada and Yoshina (2005) wrote that “this interactive concept of assessment is part of a larger paradigm shift in which learning and understanding are seen as a spiraling, student-focused process. In this process, assessment becomes critical in reshaping and reordering knowledge through action and reflection” (p. 1).

However, as I’ve read and learned throughout CEP 811, assessment in a maker environment can be nebulous and difficult. Sheridan and Halverson (2014) wrote that “perhaps the greatest challenge to embracing the maker movement in K-12 schools, especially in our current accountability environment, is the need to standardize, to define “what works” for learning through making” (p. 500).  Practically, how will I know that my elementary students are learning in the library makerspace, and how will I help them grow their creativity and critical thinking skills?



As an educator charged with student learning, I am learning how to assess creative problem solving during maker-inspired lessons.  In his blogpost, Wiggins (2012) urged educators to include creativity in the assessment process, and gave examples of rubrics that address this.  He maintained that students first must know the purpose of the creative task (which is not pleasing the teacher, by the way), and then reflect on their process and product in light of this purpose.  “This idea of focusing on impact is actually key to student autonomy, reflected in self-assessment and self-adjustment” (Wiggins, 2012).

Encouraged by Wiggins, I think that rubrics have a place in assessment of creative learning.  Rubrics can provide guidelines for expectations, and opportunities for student reflection.  Additionally, I would use reflection pieces, peer-critique, and informal assessment including exit slips, whiteboard notes, etc. to assess creative learning. I also read about students keeping a notebook of their experiences in a makerspace (Maker Media, 2013).  I think this would be a valuable and engaging tool for students to keep track of their own learning.

Rubrics, self-reflection, peer-critique and on-going formative assessment fits with constructivist learning theory and is supported by the ideas presented by a variety of researchers.  In constructivism, students learn best when they have ownership over their learning and can learn in a community (O’Donnell, 2012). Rubrics allow for student choice and student ownership.  Peer-critique allows students to learn from each other. Isselhardt (2014) compelled educators to make assessment meaningful to instruction.  These types of assessment fit with the nature of creative learning, and will not stifle that process, though the proper form of a rubric is essential.  In his video interview, Gee maintained that assessment needs to be consistent, continual and appropriate, as in a video game (Edutopia, 2010).  By having students record their learning after a makerspace session in their notebook, or leave a post-it with a question or idea learned enables the learning facilitator to monitor the learning process and know where more scaffolding is needed, or where more responsibility can be given.


Edutopia. (2010, July 20). James Paul Gee on grading with games. Retrieved from

Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K. (2014). The maker movement in education. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 495-465. Retrieved from /content/SS15/CEP/811/SS15-CEP-811-733-97EFZZ-EL-14-204/Halverson&Sheridan_MakerMovementinEducation_2014.pdf

Harada, V. H., & Yoshina, J. M. (2005). Assessing learning: Librarians and teachers as partners. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Isslehardt, E. (2013, February 11). Creating Schoolwide PBL Aligned to Common Core [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

Maker Media. (Spring 2013). Makerspace playbook: School edition. Retrieved from

O’Donnell, A. (2012). Constructivism. In APA Educational Psychology Handbook: Vol. 1. Theories, Constructs, and Critical Issues. K. R. Harris, S. Graham, and T. Urdan (Editors-in-Chief). Washgington, DC: American Psychological Association. DOI: 10.1037/13273-003.

Wiggins, G. (2012, February 3). On assessing for creativity: yes you can, and yes you should. [Web log comment]. Retrieved from

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