Agency by Design

Agency by Design is a research project exploring the promises, practices, and pedagogies of maker-centered learning. The project began in 2011 as collaboration between the Abundance Foundation and Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero. The initial phase of research studied the practice of maker-centered learning in the K-12 context and included an action research component based in Oakland, CA. The findings from the first phase of AbD were recently published in our book, Maker Centered Learning: Empowering Young People to Shape Their World.

The AbD team is now engaged in a second phase of research, focused on documentation and assessment within the maker centered learning context. Again, the project has engaged with an action research cohort of teachers, the AbD/Oakland Fellows, and is also partnering with a cohort of teachers in Pittsburgh, PA. AbD/Oakland fellows meet monthly to engage in research-based inquiry and to convene as a community of practitioners across contexts.

Through this research project, Abundance has created the Maker Empowerment Grants program to support the fellowship schools and organizations with funds needed to build and sustain maker-centered learning program. Funds have been used to build out and construct maker spaces, create portable maker carts, hire maker mentors to help with specific skills, purchase materials and equipment, and more. For more information about AbD Oakland, please visit the website.

Still curious about maker education? Watch Project Zero’s Jennifer Oxman Ryan and Shari Tishman describe their work in this short video introduction to Agency by Design:

To learn more, watch this video of AbD teacher-leader Brooke Toczylowski discussing her work with Agency by Design.


You can also follow Agency by Design on Twitter and Instagram, and AbD Oakland on Twitter.

Blog Posts

Wonder and Making at Alliance Academy of Integrated Learning

Alliance Academy of Integrated Learning is a Title I public middle school in East Oakland, California. Two Alliance teachers, A’aron Heard and Alia Ghabra, recently participated in the Agency by Design fellowship. As part of their developing teaching collaboration, Alia and A’aron incorporated Agency by Design thinking routines into their class curriculum as part of their program, Wonder Wednesdays. As Alia says in the video, AbD’s impact at Alliance was especially meaningful because it is “ ...

Agency by Design at Grass Valley Elementary

Grass Valley Elementary is a small elementary school in the Oakland Unified Public School District serving just under 300 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Two Grass Valley teachers, Paula Mitchell and Diana Culmer, recently participated in the Agency by Design research project, and were instrumental in a larger school-wide effort to bring maker-centered learning into the core school curriculum. Check out the video below, which was created with Agency by Design Oakland as part of a series ...