Agency by Design

Educational initiatives that emphasize making, design, engineering, and tinkering have been gaining traction in schools and organizations across the country. While maker-centered learning is not a new concept, recent and emerging trends suggest a new kind of hands-on pedagogy—a responsive and flexible pedagogy that encourages community and collaboration (a do-it-together mentality), distributed teaching and learning, and crossing boundaries.

Agency by Design (AbD) is a multiyear research initiative at Project Zero investigating the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning experiences.

The Framework
thinking routinesMapping Systems Experiences

Mapping Systems Experiences

This tool guides young learners to look closely at a system and explore its complexity by directly experiencing the system and reflecting on that experience. This is particularly helpful when working with very young students who may struggle to conceptualize a complex system without direct experience. In addition, this tool provides suggestions for making student thinking visible by encouraging students to share their ideas and learn from each other.

thinking routinesIMAGINE SE…


Inicialmente, essa rotina estimula o pensamento divergente, à medida que os estudantes pensam em novas possibilidades para um objeto ou um sistema; depois, o pensamento convergente é encorajado, à medida que os estudantes decidem a maneira mais eficaz de construir, explorar, re/desenhar ou hackear esse objeto ou esse sistema.

activities and practicesObservational Drawing

Observational Drawing

This practice allows learners to notice features of an object that they may not have the vocabulary to fully describe yet. By doing several sketches, learners have the chance to engage in perspective taking and to see details they might miss at first glance.

activities and practicesThe Elaboration Game

The Elaboration Game

This practice is designed to deepen learners’ sensitivity to design through drawing, observing, questioning, and collaborating. 

activities and practicesPeople, Systems, Power, Participation

People, Systems, Power, Participation

A protocol for looking critically at content and developing a sensitivity to the role(s) of power and participation in the design of objects and systems.

thinking routinesPENSE, SINTA, SE IMPORTE


Essa rotina encoraja os estudantes a considerarem as diversas perspectivas de quem interage em um sistema particular. O objetivo dessa rotina é ajudar os estudantes a entender no que as diversas pessoas que participam de um sistema pensam, o que sentem e com o que se importam de uma forma particular em função de sua posição no sistema.

publicationsIdentifying What Matters

Identifying What Matters

In this essay, leaders of the Agency by Design Pittsburgh network Peter Wardrip, Jeffrey Evancho, and Annie McNamarra describe their process of pursuing documentation and assessment strategies for maker-centered learning that are based on the values educators bring to their work in schools and other settings. Using the metaphor of big rocks and little rocks as introduced by Steven Covey, the authors describe the process of identifying one’s values and documenting and assessing student learning from the perspective of one’s values. They then articulate the lessons they have learned and their suggestions for moving forward. The core findings that emerge from this work are: (a) identifying one’s values is challenging, (b) documentation requires practice, (c) one’s values are linked to one’s content, and (d) visibility supports measurement.

documentation and assessment toolsMaking Moves: One Page Guide

Making Moves: One Page Guide

The AbD Making Moves are a set of observable or actionable “moves” that learners and educators can use to help design maker-centered learning experiences, and to support, observe, document, and assess maker-centered learning.