Collaborative E-crafting: Adopting Collectivistic Orientations Toward E-Textile Maker Projects

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

American Educational Research Association Annual Meeting


American Educational Research Association


San Antonio, TX

Publication Date



Purpose and Theoretical Frame. As maker activities are increasingly finding their way into schools, practitioners and researchers are searching to find productive ways to incorporate these previously unstructured and interest-driven activities into the formal environment of the classroom. Maker activities, often requiring knowledge of several domain areas and draw heavily on collaborations between participants to support their learning and design processes. This can be seen, for example, within the context of robotics team challenges (Sullivan, 2008) and pair programming (Salleh, Mendes, & Grundy, 2011). Drawing on these models, this study explores the use of collaborative pair arrangements in e-textiles, which we call collaborative e-crafting. In doing so, we hoped to provide a balance between the structure of traditional classroom pedagogy and the more loosely arranged social structures of makerspaces that foster a sense of agency for participants.

As a first step to understand how this collaborative arrangement functions in a hybrid design space, our research focused on the role distribution and communication strategies in student pairs, based on key features of pair programming. We also adapted Triandis’ (1995) individualistic (narrowly focused on an individual’s trajectory) and collectivistic (broadly focused on the community trajectory) orientations toward identity as an overarching frame for how students conceptualized their agency and related to their peers within their pairs.

Methods. We conducted an e-textiles workshop with an ethnically diverse class of 23 high school STEM juniors (4 boys, 19 girls, 16-17 years old) at a charter school in a northeastern metropolitan city. During fifteen 90-minute sessions, student pairs collaboratively constructed an interactive, e-textiles sign to be exhibited in a high-traffic area of the school. Students were assigned to work in pairs, though student interaction was not prescribed by instructors.

Data. We collected a range of qualitative data focusing on pairs’ interactions and work. In addition to collecting artifacts throughout the design process, we conducted pre- and post-interviews with each student and collected fieldnotes each day. We present two case studies developed from post-interviews, fieldnotes, analytic memos, and artifacts highlighting the distinct role-taking and communication styles we identified.

Results. Student pairs tended to have a greater sense of agency and ownership when they adopted a collectivistic rather than individualistic orientation toward their peer and project. Consider Caroline and Joy who adopted a collectivistic attitude, which resulted in an equitable approach to their work and a shared effort to understand the multiple domains in e-crafting. Conversely, Melanie and Jasmine took an individualistic orientation by essentially siloing themselves within their separate roles and domains and taking minimal ownership over their project. These two pairs anchor a continuum from highly collectivistic to highly individualistic on which the rest of the class falls.

Significance. This study provides insights for how to structure collaborative making activities, like e-textiles, and highlights areas of peer interaction requiring additional support, a key area for future research. Additionally, our study challenges the fields of maker research and collaborative learning to consider a collectivistic perspective to frame how we understand agency in maker activities

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