University of Roma Tre (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN19 Proceedings
Publication year: 2019
Pages: 1695-1703
ISBN: 978-84-09-12031-4
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2019.0493
Conference name: 11th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 1-3 July, 2019
Location: Palma, Spain
Tinkering has been recognized as an informal method to engage students with STEM disciplines. It can be defined as an open-ended process of designing and constructing objects or installations, generally using both high- and low-tech tools (Bevan et al., 2015). Tinkering has been adopted not only to develop scientific knowledge but also to support thinking processes such as Critical and Creative Thinking. Indeed participants in Tinkering activities are constantly involved in the inquiry, collaborative process, during while scientific and aesthetic insights could be combined. Despite these theoretical assumptions, there is still a lack of empirical studies concerning the impact of Tinkering on the development of Creativity and Critical Thinking.

The Centre for Museum Studies - University of Roma Tre has been trying to solve this gap, by investigating the impact of Tinkering activities on Critical and Creative thinking skills enhancement in museum educators and teachers involved in STEM education. The Centre for Museum Studies conducted a study with about 60 participants at Città della Scienza - Science centre (Naples) and Palaexpo (Rome), where museum educators and STEM teachers participated in a two-day workshop on collaborative Tinkering activities. Data about Creative (Guilford et al., 1978) and Critical Thinking (Poce, 2017) were collected through a pre-post test methodology. In addition, different kinds of qualitative data were collected during the two days such as groups’ interactions, presentations, and final objects’ pictures.

From preliminary results, a significant correlation was detected between Critical and Creative Thinking (r = 0,39) at the beginning of the course. Participants showed significant higher Creative Thinking level after the Tinkering Activity (sign. < 0,001). On the other hand, despite there were no statistical differences concerning Critical Thinking assessment, a slight improvement in the post-test could be quantified. In final objects and installations, it was possible to detect the process through which participants combined the scientific and the aesthetic dimension. Indeed, scientific knowledge was often explicitly interconnected to objects' historical, anthropological, and literary elements.

In conclusion, Tinkering seems to have a positive impact on thinking functions because it allows combining scientific and humanistic knowledge through an open-ended creative process. Follow up research is required, where it will be necessary to expand the sample of the study and use different measures for Critical and Creative Thinking assessment.
Tinkering, Museum, STEM education, Critical thinking, Creativity, Assessment and evaluation.