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Project-Based Learning and Makerspaces Essay

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2020

The purpose of education is to prepare people for effective collaboration within society. There are different educational methods and strategies. Although traditional ways of teaching offer time-tested standards, many educators choose other approaches that help to address students’ learning needs. Project-based learning and makerspaces are among some of the most effective educational strategies (Becker et al., 2016). These environments have many similar and different attributes. The main goal of this paper is to highlight similarities and differences between project-based learning and makerspaces and how they might be implemented in an educational setting.

Educators apply various methods to establish an effective learning environment. Project-based learning is a classroom approach that is aimed at enhancing students’ knowledge and skills by means of conducting profound and comprehensive research to find a solution to a complicated problem (“What is,” n.d.). This type of teaching helps to focus on several important aspects. First, such projects require developed critical thinking, cooperation, and organizational skills (Becker et al., 2016). Second, students are involved in discussions and develop presentation skills. Third, educators highlight important ideas that are presented in teaching standards (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2010). Fourth, projects are related to real-world problems, which make learners understand the importance of the content. Fifth, project-based learning provides students with opportunities to choose the way of implementing their projects (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2010). Finally, educators evaluate students and give them effective feedback on their achievements, aiming at improving their performance.

Another educational approach is makerspaces. A makerspace is a special space that is provided by educational institutions, libraries, or some others public facilities that are used for learning, researching, and making (Becker et al., 2016). Such spaces are very popular among not only kids and teenagers but also working professionals. In addition, makerspaces offer different equipment that might include 3D printers, computer numerical control tools, and sewing machines (Sheridan et al., 2014). Such educational settings are necessary for people who need to explore their interests. They provide opportunities in different areas such as science, engineering, or art. Makerspaces also help to develop entrepreneurial skills and serve as accelerators for new business ventures (Sheridan et al., 2014). Therefore, this approach is multidimensional.

Project-based learning and making might seem to be two different methods, however, in real life, these approaches often go together and complement one another. They both enhance inventiveness, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. Students research environmental and socio-economic problems. They also learn new software, study sciences, and explore other disciplines. Students are offered different tools for their project-based learning work. It is especially relevant for such areas as technology and engineering. Also, some schools establish makerspaces to attract more students to these fields. The incorporation of makerspaces in regular educational programs improves academic achievements of students (Sheridan et al., 2014). Therefore, project-based learning and makerspaces both inspire students to gain a more profound knowledge about the subject of their interest. However, these environments are different in their nature. While makerspaces focus on creating products, project-based learning develops skills that are necessary to address real-life problems. Also, differences and similarities might be seen in methods that are used in both environments to engage students in studying process.

The engagement of students is a very important factor as it directly influences the learning outcomes. Educators try to apply different methods to engage students to study a particular subject more deeply. For example, they use various digital tools and mobile technologies. Social media is also a highly effective instrument as it can attract more students to studying processes. Many educators advocate the application of social media as it might help to enhance learning experiences. Such tools can be applied in both project-based learning and makerspaces (Becker et al., 2016). However, there are specific features that are necessary to make the environment in project-based learning more engaging. First, as this type of teaching does not involve production, it should be relevant to the real world (Becker et al., 2016).

Second, a completed project should improve the student’s understanding of a subject. When students overcome challenges, they are motivated by their personal interests and concerns. They need to examine a problem more deeply in comparison with traditional ways of learning. That is why learners completed a project-based course are more likely to utilize their skills when dealing with unknown situations (Becker et al., 2016). However, specialists working in makerspaces use other methods to attract attention. For example, libraries and museums develop makerspaces that offer different creative activities using their collections (Sheridan et al., 2014). Also, making experiences might include science festivals, competitions, and fairs. Such events encourage students to design new things and promote the culture of innovation.

These environments might be applied in support of specific instructional outcomes. The project-based learning method challenges students to solve real-life problems (Larmer & Mergendoller, 2010). They have to cope with issues of extreme weather or projects related to historical aspects. For example, students created a game that showed the difference between monarchies and democratic republics (Becker et al., 2016). Another example is a presentation of multiple statements of presidential candidates regarding abortion. Therefore, project-based learning can improve academic achievements in such fields as history, sociology, politics, and philosophy. On the other hand, makerspaces can support different learning objectives. These environments help to exchange ideas in order to develop new products. Students in makerspaces can utilize various technological tools.

These tools serve not only to search for necessary information and create products but also enhance collaboration as students can communicate with different specialists throughout the world. As makerspaces focus on creating real things, they might be used to design, for instance, software applications (Peppler, Halverson, & Kafai, 2016). Therefore, makerspaces can help to reach better achievements in computer programming. Another example is different electrical circuits that are used in FM radios, voice recorders, and other devices. Such projects enhance knowledge in sciences, for example, physics. The next important aspect is that makerspaces and project-based learning programs make teaching processes emotionally and intellectually rewarding. Different projects let educators communicate with students more closely and support more actively the most devoted.

Project-based learning and makerspaces demonstrate a considerably positive effect on the development of vocational skills among students. These methods stimulate them to conduct in-depth research, create new products, and interact with different experts around the world (McKay, Banks, & Wallace, 2016). These environments are distinctively different from one another. Project-based learning is focused on the development of analytical, organizational, and communicational skills. On the other hand, makerspaces provide opportunities for scientific and technological creativity. Therefore, project-based learning programs are mostly aimed at cultivating knowledge, whereas makerspaces are necessary for people who want to discover new areas and broaden their perceptions. When educators combine these approaches, it helps them engage students more deeply in educational processes, which consequently improves their academic achievements and prepare them for successful careers.


Becker, S. A., Freeman, A., Hall, C. G., Cummins, M., & Yuhnke, B. (2016). NMC/CoSN horizon report: 2016 K. Austin, TX: The New Media Consortium.

Larmer, J., & Mergendoller, J. R. (2010). Essentials for project-based learning. Educational leadership, 68(1), 34-37.

McKay, C., Banks, T. D., & Wallace, S. (2016). Makerspace classrooms: Where technology intersects with problem, project, and place-based design in classroom curriculum. International Journal of Designs for Learning, 7(2), 11-16

Peppler, K., Halverson, E., & Kafai, Y. B. (Eds.). (2016). Makeology: Makerspaces as learning environments (Vol. 1). New York, NY: Routledge.

Sheridan, K., Halverson, E. R., Litts, B., Brahms, L., Jacobs-Priebe, L., & Owens, T. (2014). Learning in the making: A comparative case study of three makerspaces. Harvard Educational Review, 84(4), 505-531.

(n.d.). Web.

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