Collaborative Research: The Notion of Failure and Maker Programming for Youth: Supporting the Professional Development, Reflection, and Learning of Informal Educators

January 1st, 2021 - December 31st, 2023 | PROJECT

While there is increased interest in youth-centered maker programs in informal educational contexts, scarce research-informed professional development exist that focus on how informal educators do or should plan and handle ongoing, just-in-time support during moments of failure. Prior research supports the important role of failure in maker programming to increase learning, resilience and other noncognitive skills such as self-efficacy and independence. The objective of this project is to address this gap through adapting, implementing, and refining a professional development program for informal educators to productively attend, interpret, and respond to youths’ experiences with failure while engaged in maker programs in informal learning contexts. In the first two years of the project, the research team will work closely with six partners to implement and refine the professional development model: The Tech Museum of Innovation, The Bakken Museum, Montshire Museum of Science, The Minneapolis Institute of Art, Thinkery, and Amazeum Children’s Museum. In the last year of the project, the team will scale-up the professional development model through partnering with an additional nine institutions implementing maker programming for youth. The professional development consists of two models. In the first model, we support one to two lead facilitators at each partnering institution through an initial three-day workshop and ongoing support meetings. In the second model, the lead facilitators support other informal educators at their institution implementing making programs for youth. This project will enhance the infrastructure for research and education as collaborations and professional learning communities will be established among a variety of informal learning institutions. The project will also demonstrate a link between research and institutional and societal benefits through shifting the connotation and perceptions of failure to be valued for its educational potential and to empower informal educators to support discomfort and struggle throughout maker programs with youth.

The three goals of this collaborative project are to (a) advance the field of informal education through a research-based professional development program specific to youths’ failures during maker programs; (b) support shifts in informal educators’ facilitation practices and perspectives around youth’s failure experiences, and (c) investigate the effects of the professional development on youths’ resilience and failure mindset. The iterative nature of this project will be informed by the collection and analysis of video data of professional development sessions and informal educators facilitating maker programs, reflective journaling, surveys regarding the professional development, and pre-post surveys from youth engaged in the maker programs. Dissemination will address multiple stakeholders, including informal educators, program developers, evaluators, researchers, and public audiences.

This Innovations in Development project is funded by the Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL) program, which seeks to advance new approaches to, and evidence-based understanding of, the design and development of STEM learning in informal environments. This includes providing multiple pathways for broadening access to and engagement in STEM learning experiences, advancing innovative research on and assessment of STEM learning in informal environments, and developing understandings of deeper learning by participants.

Project Website(s)

(no project website provided)

Team Members

Adam Maltese, Principal Investigator, Indiana University
Amber Simpson, Principal Investigator, SUNY at Binghamton
Alice Anderson, Co-Principal Investigator, Minneapolis Institute of Art


Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005860
Funding Amount: $255,070

Funding Source: NSF
Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL)
Award Number: 2005927
Funding Amount: $1,454,326


Audience: Educators | Teachers | Elementary School Children (6-10) | Learning Researchers | Middle School Children (11-13) | Museum | ISE Professionals | Youth | Teen (up to 17)
Discipline: Art | music | theater | Education and learning science | Engineering | General STEM | Technology
Resource Type: Project Descriptions
Environment Type: Making and Tinkering Programs | Museum and Science Center Programs | Professional Development | Conferences | Networks | Professional Development and Workshops | Public Programs