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Exploring ideation strategies as an opportunity to support and evaluate making

Marcelo Worsley (Learning Sciences and Computer Science, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, USA)

Information and Learning Sciences

ISSN: 2398-5348

Article publication date: 15 May 2021

Issue publication date: 16 July 2021




This paper aims to compare two types of prompts, encouraging participants to think about real-world examples or engineering principles to show how these two approaches can result in vastly different design practices.


Two studies (N = 20, N = 40) examine the impact of two different prompts. Non-expert students, from high school and university, completed a hands-on, engineering design task in pairs. Half were prompted to ideate using real-world examples, while the other half were prompted to ideate using engineering principles. The findings are based on human coding and artifact analyses.


In both studies, and across multiple measures, students in the principle-based condition performed better than students in the example-based condition.

Research limitations/implications

A seemingly small difference in how students are prompted or encouraged to approach a problem can have a significant impact on their experience. The findings also suggest that leveraging engineering principles, even when those principles are only loosely formed, can be effective even for non-experts. Finally, the findings motivate identifying student reasoning strategies over time as a potential means for assessment in Makerspaces.

Practical implications

Encouraging makers to think about different ways for approaching problems can be an important way to help them succeed. It may also be a useful way to chronicle their learning pathway.


To the author's knowledge, explicitly looking at ideation strategies has not been widely discussed within the Maker community as a way to support learners, or as a way to evaluate learning.



Worsley, M. (2021), "Exploring ideation strategies as an opportunity to support and evaluate making", Information and Learning Sciences, Vol. 122 No. 3/4, pp. 127-146.



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