Theses Doctoral

Making Community: Culturally Relevant Constructionist Design for Low-income Thai Public Schools

Thanapornsangsuth, Sawaros

This dissertation qualitatively explores 55 Thai 4th grade students, a teacher, and 7 community members from a low-income public school in Bangkok, Thailand in order to develop a design framework for creating school-based maker experiences that are culturally relevant to lower income Thai students. Co-teaching and co designing a two-year design-based research project named, “Little Builders,” I worked with a local science teacher to engage the students in a constructionist learning experience that involved designing and building social innovations to solve problems in their community. I propose the Culturally Relevant Constructionist Design framework as a way to (1) create constructionist learning experiences that align with students’ values and goals, and (2) engage important people in the students’ lives, such as teachers and community members, in the process of making. Designing the learning experience for Thai students from 2017-2019, I draw from the life and work of the late King Bhumibol of Thailand. For 70 years, King Bhumibol was a unifying figure in Thailand and widely admired as “The Developer King” (Nicholas & Dominic, 2011) as he dedicated his life to creating inventions for the good of the country. Students “followed in the King’s footsteps” by making inventions to better their community in the midst of a nation-wide mourning period after the King’s death in 2016.

This dissertation builds upon the literature from constructionism, sociocultural views of learning and identity development, community-centered making, and culturally relevant pedagogy. Little Builders provided opportunities for students, teachers, and community members to build projects and relationships. They learned about making while also learning more about each other and about how to support one another. During the Little Builders project, teachers and community members explicitly expressed new appreciation and awareness of students’ skills and strengths, gradually moving away from deficit narratives. Similarly, the students saw themselves as someone who could create and invent while helping others.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Thesis Advisors
Holbert, Nathan R.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
October 22, 2020