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Assessing elementary students’ collaborative problem-solving in makerspace activities

Danielle Herro (Department of Education and Human Development, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)
Cassie Quigley (Department of Education, School of Education, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA)
Oluwadara Abimbade (Department of Education and Human Development, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 9 September 2021

Issue publication date: 17 November 2021




The purpose of this study is to identify and assess collaborative problem solving (CPS) behaviors in elementary students in science, technology, engineering, arts/humanities and mathematics (STEAM)-related making and to garner students perspectives. We offer a valid way for researchers to understand collaborative processes and for educators to create opportunities for collaboration. Additionally, the feedback from the assessment offers students a way to reflect on their CPS skills.


This qualitative study evaluated 52 elementary students’ CPS skills using co-measure, a validated rubric assessing students’ CPS when working in STEAM-related makerspace activities. Students worked in collaborative groups to “make” artifacts when solving a problem posed by their teacher. They were assessed using co-measure’s four dimensions: peer interactions, positive communication, inquiry rich/multiple paths and transdisciplinary approaches and scored via each dimension’s associated attributes. Student interviews provided their perspectives on CPS.


A majority of students scored in the acceptable or proficient range in the social dimensions of peer interactions and positive communication. Students scored slightly lower on the cognitive dimensions of inquiry rich/multiple paths and markedly lower on transdisciplinary approaches when collaborating. Findings suggest to increase CPS skills, teachers might develop “making” activities fostering greater inquiry and model ways to strategize and verify information, approach the problem drawing on student interest and prior knowledge and collaboratively use tools, materials and methods that mimic the real world when problem-solving.


Much of the current research on assessing CPS during making is in the early stages of considering appropriate assessment approaches, especially in schools. To expand this literature the study includes elementary students between the ages of 6-10, the focus is on assessing their collaboration using an observational rubric. The authors use preliminary findings from young children’s perspectives on making to position the future work.



This study was funded through an Associate Dean of Research Grant, College of Education, Clemson University.


Herro, D., Quigley, C. and Abimbade, O. (2021), "Assessing elementary students’ collaborative problem-solving in makerspace activities", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 11/12, pp. 774-794.



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