Worsley, M. and Blikstein, P. (2014). Making Smarter not Harder: Using
Principle-based Reasoning to Promote Object Closeness and Improve Making.
In Proceedings of the 2014 FabLearn Conference.
Constructionism and the Maker Movement are becoming increasingly prevalent and increasingly popular. Makerspaces and Fablabs are being developed in schools, libraries, museums and community centers around the world. However, as this movement grows it is important to continue researching, refining and improving the best practices within these innovative environments. In this paper we present a pair of studies that document 1) common strategies that students use in hands-on learning, and 2) how those strategies impact student performance and learning. Specifically, we show that students who engage in a short principle-based reasoning intervention, outperform their peers who use example-based reasoning both in terms of the quality of their designs, and in terms of knowledge construction. Based on the results of these studies we propose that short, appropriately targeted, generative activities be more broadly used in constructionist learning environments. The generative activities will help promote “object closeness” and improve the current state of making in education.