'Making' Learning Theorists

Students cardboard

In their book Invent to Learn, Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez talk about some of the learning theorists whose work has influenced the Maker Movement.

Johann Pestalozzi

Johann Pestalozzi believed that learning with 'head, heart and hands' would help all children, to make progress. His writing influenced thousands of educators, and the schools established using his methods taught tens of thousands of children to think for themselves. Albert Einstein, who was educated in a Pestalozzi school said 'It made me clearly realize how much superior an education based on free action and personal responsibility is to one relying on outward authority.'

Friedrich Froebel and Maria Montessori

Friedrich Froebel built upon Pestalozzi's ideas to design the first kindergartens. Italian medical doctor Maria Montessori embraced many of Froebel's ideas, notably the deliberate use of materials for learning specific concepts, in creating her approach to educating poor preschoolers. It's easy to find widespread support for the idea that hands-on experiences are crucial for students to develop deep understanding.

John Dewey

John Dewey viewed the process of education as continuous growth across a lifetime, resulting from personal motivation. The iterative design methodology that characterizes modern 'making' may be found in the words of John Dewey.

'It is part of the educator’s responsibility to see equally two things first that the problem grows out of the conditions of the experience being had in the present and that is within the capacity of the students and secondly that it arouses an active quest for information and the production of new ideas the new facts and new ideas become the ground for further experiences in which new problems are presented. The process is a continuous spiral.' John Dewey

Jean Piaget

Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget formalised and confirmed many of the ideas of John Dewey, Montessori, Froebel and Pestalozzi with his theories of constructivism. Learners construct knowledge inside their head based on experience. Learning by making tinkering and engineering brings Piagetian theories to life.

Seymour Papert

Seymour Papert, a mathematician who worked with Piaget and helped found the MIT Media Lab defined a learning theory, constructionism, that takes Piagetian constructivist theory a step further toward action. Although the learning happens inside the learner's head, it happens most reliably when the learner is engaged in a personally meaningful activity that makes the learning real and shareable.

‘From constructivist theories of psychology, we take a view of learning as a reconstruction rather than as a transmission of knowledge. Then we extend the idea of manipulative materials to the idea that learning is most effective when part of an activity the learner experiences is constructing a meaningful product’. Seymour Papert

Loris Malaguzzi

The Reggio Emilia Approach created by Loris Malaguzzi and his colleagues built on the philosophies of Dewey, Piaget, Vygotsky and others who placed then child at the centre of the learning process. In Reggio Emilia classrooms children of all ages use a variety of materials for knowledge construction and to express an understanding. Students use real tools to help them solve real problems.

Howard Gardner

Howard Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences published in 1983 acknowledged that we all learn differently. Hands on learning through making offers opportunities for students to learn in their personal styles and allows for the expression of multiple intelligences.

Explore "An insanely brief and incomplete history of making" Chapter 1, Invent to Learn, if you'd like to learn more.

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