Applying Maker Principles to Developmental Education – Literature Review

UPDATE: Much of this has been included in a newer literature review.

Developmental Education

The typical model for college placement, and the model employed at Sauk Valley Community College, is that the prospective student takes a placement test to determine if they can meet the required level and, if they do not, is placed in a developmental course of study to be completed prior to college-level work. However, many concerns have been raised as to the impact of this model on student success.

Scott-Clayton found that placement exams are better at predicting which students will succeed in college than who would fail and that multiple methods of placement would be more effective and could help more students be successful. Once a student has been placed into a developmental course, Park, Woods, Richard, Tandberg, Hu, and Jones found that taking developmental education classes has a significant impact on degree and career completion and many students simply do not ever take the core classes. In fact, less than half of the students complete their developmental education series of courses and nearly one third simply do not take the developmental education course . According to Hu, Park, Woods, Tandberg, Richard, Hankerson, Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast (ED), National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (ED), and Florida State University , “the logical extension is that developmental education…was more of a barrier than a support in the aggregate.”   Nunez found this to be true at Sauk Valley Community College as well; fewer than half of students are successful in developmental education courses the first time, and only half will continue as students past the first year. He concludes, “It is pretty clear that if we are going to admit students to developmental courses, then we must do a better job at helping these students be successful the first time.”

There is, however, much promising study in this area as well to give hope. Hodara, Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest (ED), National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (ED), and Education Northwest found that, since academic preparation during high school years predicts college success better than than socioeconomic or demographic factors, it is important to target students for remediation prior to enrolling in college. Even new first year experience courses were found to not help students move through developmental education faster or improve academic achievement . Further, after Florida disallowed requiring placement tests and developmental education classes, Hu et al. found that fewer students took developmental education courses but more passed them and that while more students both took and failed gateway courses, the ratio of all first-time college students who passed gateway courses increased. Finally, Booth, Capraro, Capraro, Chaudhuri, Dyer, and Marchbanks found that developmental education students reported being more successful as a result of being placed in a common cohort for collaboration.

Maker Education

Schank describes goal-oriented learning and learning by doing as methods to motivate learners. According to his model , learning involves having a goal and some obstacle, something to help you overcome the obstacle and accomplish the goal so you know how to do it next time; technology’s role can be to help provide the means to overcome the obstacle. This learning process will be most effective when the goal is an authentic one, one with real-world implications to the learner .

The Maker Movement exemplifies this approach by allowing learners to identify their own authentic goals and access to the means to reach those goals. Martin identified three key elements of the Maker Movement that can be readily applied to education: embrace of digital tools, community involvement and collaboration, and Dougherty’s  maker mindset, “a can-do attitude that can be summarized as ‘what can you do with what you know?’”  In many ways, this is nothing new; Viviano  observes that “This community that Martin speaks of exists right inside the walls of [Career and Technical Centers] and nothing exemplifies the maker movement more than Project-based Learning (PBL).”  However, in reality, high-stakes standardized testing often crowds out PBL efforts, as PBL takes longer in the short-term and teachers feel pressure to ensure that students perform well on annual standardized tests .


The preceding evidence suggest that an online, collaborative college preparatory program modeled around maker principles and made available to high school students could help students succeed in—or even bypass—developmental education courses and be more successful in their academic or career endeavors.

Bailey, T., Jeong, D. W., & Cho, S.-W. (2010). Referral, enrollment, and completion in developmental education sequences in community colleges. Special Issue in Honor of Henry M. Levin, 29(2), 255–270.
Booth, E. A., Capraro, M. M., Capraro, R. M., Chaudhuri, N., Dyer, J., & Marchbanks, M. P., III. (2014). Innovative developmental education programs: A Texas model. Journal of Developmental Education, 38(1), 2-4,. eric.
Dougherty, D. (2013). The maker mindset. In Design, make, play growing the next generation of STEM innovators (pp. 7–16). Routledge.
Herrington, T., & Herrington, J. (2006). Authentic learning environments in higher education. IGI Global.
Hodara, M., Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest (ED), National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (ED), & Education Northwest. (2015). What predicts participation in developmental education among recent high school graduates at community college? Lessons from Oregon. REL 2015-081 (Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest. Available from: Institute of Education Sciences. 555 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20208. Tel: 800-872-5327; Web site: Regional Educational Laboratory Northwest; eric.
Hu, S., Park, T. J., Woods, C. S., Tandberg, D. A., Richard, K., Hankerson, D., Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast (ED), National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance (ED), & Florida State University, F. C. for R. R. (2016). Investigating developmental and college-level course enrollment and passing before and after Florida’s developmental education reform. REL 2017-203 (Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast. Available from: Institute of Education Sciences. 555 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20208. Tel: 800-872-5327; Web site: Regional Educational Laboratory Southeast; eric.
Martin, L. (2015). The promise of the maker movement for education. Journal of Pre-College Engineering Education Research (J-PEER), 5(1).
Nunez, S. (2015). The use of academic data and demographic data from recently graduated high school students to predict academic success at Sauk Valley Community College [Thesis, Ferris State University].
Park, T., Woods, C., Richard, K., Tandberg, D., Hu, S., & Jones, T. (2016). When developmental education is optional, what will students do? A preliminary analysis of survey data on student course enrollment decisions in an environment of increased choice. Innovative Higher Education, 41(3), 221–236. tfh.
Schank, R. C. (2010, January). elearn Magazine: Learning is still the same. ELearn Magazine, an ACM Publication.
Schank, R. C. (1992). Goal-based scenarios.
Scott-Clayton, J. (2012). Do high-stakes placement exams predict college success? CCRC working paper no. 41.
Thompson, G. (2014). The maker movement connects to the classroom. Education Digest, 80(3), 34.
Viviano, T. (2017). The maker movement. Techniques: Connecting Education & Careers, 92(5), 52.
What Works Clearinghouse (ED), & Development Services Group, Inc. (2016). First year experience courses for students in developmental education. What Works Clearinghouse intervention report (What Works Clearinghouse. P.O. Box 2393, Princeton, NJ 08543-2393. Tel: 866-503-6114; e-mail:; Web site: What Works Clearinghouse; eric.