< Back to About / FAQ
Frequently asked questions about Invention Education
About Invention Education
What is Invention Education?
Invention Education is:
• A pedagogical approach focused on problem identification through empathy and collaborative problem solving that results in novel solutions by integrating the process of invention into teaching and learning.
• Key components include collaboration, empathy, problem identification and refinement, research, accessing sources of expertise and capacities, continuous learning including self-directed study, prototyping, user input, iteration, intellectual property literacy and its application to the creation and protection of inventions, community engagement, entrepreneurial exploration, go-to-market evaluation, and consideration of sustainability.
• Interdisciplinary, and therefore often team-oriented, with a focus broad enough to be responsive to the ever-changing and increasingly interconnected world that demands complex solutions which draw on more than one academic discipline.
• Often encompassing computational thinking, entrepreneurship, the maker mindset, human-centered design, and design thinking; includes an application of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education principles as well as creative practices and processes common to the arts and humanities.
Why is Invention Education needed?
Our children face a future of new, more demanding, and increasingly complex problems – climate change, global health, sustainable business, poverty, and more.1 Solving these problems will require agile thinkers with diverse perspectives and life experiences, and an ability to identify and acquire the new, yet unknown knowledge needed to operate and create tomorrow’s technologies and industries.2 Skills like leadership, teamwork, empathy and resilience will be needed to prepare students to succeed in the future. At the same time, our educational system risks growing increasingly out of step with the needs of life and work in the 21st century. Invention Education offers a powerful approach to bridge this gap and tap into the latent creative potential within every student, fostering a pathway to a more equitable innovation economy.
1 UN Sustainable Development Goals
2 WEF Jobs for the Future
What are the benefits of Invention Education for students?
Invention Education teaches essential skills students need, whether they become inventors or not. It provides a safe learning environment that encourages students to take risks, experience failure, and be comfortable in ambiguity. Students increase their self-confidence and resilience, as well as develop leadership skills. The problem identification process core to Invention Education also helps students develop critical “soft” skills such as empathy and gives them a greater appreciation for inclusivity in problem solving. Moreover, gold standard programs demonstrate the power of Invention Education to engage a greater diversity of students – especially girls and students of color – into STEM learning and careers.
What are the benefits of Invention Education for educators?
Educators are faced with increasing demands on their time and resources.3 Invention Education enhances their existing approaches and integrates with current curriculum. Educators consistently report that Invention Education inspires students to be more engaged in their own learning, bucking trends that show steady declines in student engagement.4 Invention Education also helps educators realize the opportunity to have real impact on how students view themselves and their futures.
What are the benefits of Invention Education for society?
Creating sustainable, resilient economies is a fundamental challenge for the future. Invention has proven to be a critical driver of economic growth and high quality, high paying jobs. Future leaders will need skills such as empathy and inclusion, as well as technical knowledge (e.g. STEM, computer science) to both thrive in and create the industries and jobs of tomorrow.5 Invention Education builds these skills and mindsets in an engaging, fun way, preparing students to thrive in a future yet to be determined, in industries yet to be imagined, and in jobs yet to be created.
5 WEF Jobs for the Future
What are examples of the impact of Invention Education?
Researchers have argued that early and sustaining exposure to invention, STEM, arts, and medicine-related (STEAMM) experiences have the most lasting impact on young people’s trajectories and careers in invention and related fields.6 7 8 At the same time, engagement in Invention Education at any age and in any type of program can also impact one’s interests, college and career pathways. More generally, Invention Education can awaken one’s creativity, “can-do attitude,” and self-confidence in problem solving as well as empathy and understanding of the social world through a problem-seeking and problem-solving lens. 9 10 11 12 13
6 Bell, A., Chetty, R., Jaravel, X., Petkova, N., & Van Reenen, J. (2018). Who becomes an inventor in America? The importance of exposure to innovation. Retrieved from https://opportunityinsights.org/wp-content/up- loads/2019/01/patents_paper.pdf
7 Committee for the Study of Invention. (2004). Invention: Enhancing inventiveness for quality of life, competitiveness, and sustainability
8 Root-Bernstein, R., Peruski, A., VanDyke, M., Root-Bernstein, M., LaMore, R., Schweitzer, J., … Roraback, E. (2019). Differences in male and female arts and crafts avocations in the early training and patenting activity of STEMM professionals. Technology & Innovation, 20(3), 197–219.
9 Couch, S., Estabrooks, L. B., & Skukauskaite, A. (2018). Addressing the gender gap among patent holders through invention education policies. Technology & Innovation, 19(4), 735–749.
10 Moore, R. A., Newton, S. H., & Baskett, A. D. (2017). The InVenture challenge: Inspiring STEM learning through invention and entrepreneurship. International Journal of Engineering Education, 33(1B), 361–370.
11 Perez-Breva, L. (2016). Innovating: A doer’s manifesto. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
12 Root-Bernstein, R., & Root-Bernstein, M. (1999). Sparks of genius: The thirteen thinking tools of the world’s most creative people. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
What research has been done on Invention Education?
Research studies of Invention Education in the United States have been limited, so far. This is changing, however. In 2019, members of the InventEd Network, representing institutions such as University of Iowa, MIT and Georgia Tech, participated in a yearlong collaborative effort supported by The Lemelson Foundation that aimed to develop a research agenda for the field. In November 2019, a synthesis of their work – Researching Invention Education: A White Paper – was published. The document summarizes the research base, values, and principles currently guiding the development and implementation of Invention Education.
How many students have benefitted from Invention Education experiences?
Educators have been delivering Invention Education for more than 16 years in a range of learning environments. Currently, more than 120,000 students are engaged annually in Invention Education programming globally. Access to Invention Education across the US is growing in formal and informal learning settings.
Hasn’t Invention Education been around for a while? What is different about this effort?
While individual Invention Education programs and curricula have been in use, this is the first time that a diverse group of leaders from education, government, policy and more are collaborating in a structured, formal, and coordinated effort to build the field and bring Invention Education to more students. Early results of this collaboration include The Invention Education Framework and Researching Invention Education, A White Paper. For more information about the collaborative InventEd Network go here.
Is Invention Education aligned with Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)?
Invention Education supports NGSS, which focuses on the practical application of STEM and their connection to engineering principles for K-12 students.
What are some examples of Invention Education in action?
Invention Education is represented in a wide array of programs, including both in and out of school, formal and informal. It can take place in a day, but more often over the span of weeks and in some cases an entire academic year. Explore a sample of Invention Education programs around the country here. Or hear from educators talking about the impact of their work in Invention Education here.
How do I bring Invention Education to my school or afterschool program?
There are multiple ways to bring Invention Education to your school or afterschool program. A great first step is to explore the InventEd Network, a diverse group of leaders from education, government, policy and more, collaborating to bring Invention Education to more students. Members of the Network share curriculum, activities and best practices for implementation. There are many opportunities to join conversations, listen in on webinars, and participate in peer groups.
The free Invention Education Framework can be downloaded and shared. Learn more below.
Not all my students want to be inventors. Why is it important for me to include them in Invention Education?
Invention Education teaches essential skills that all students need, whether they become inventors or not. It provides a safe learning environment that encourages students to take risks, experience failure, and be comfortable in ambiguity. Students develop increased self-confidence, more resilience, and stronger leadership skills, all of which they’ll need to effectively address future challenges, regardless of what path they pursue.
What funding is required to implement Invention Education?
Funding required to implement Invention Education varies according to setting (e.g. in school, afterschool, museum etc.), dosage, model (e.g. course, competition), materials used, and number of students involved. See a sample of our Network members here to learn more about different Invention Education models.
The Invention Education Framework
Is there a set of principles for Invention Education?
Yes. The Invention Education Framework is a comprehensive set of principles for Invention Education that can support its growth within formal and informal learning environments from K-12 through higher education. It is organized around six tenets by which gold-standard programs, activities and curricula will be articulated, understood and evaluated. The six tenets are: 1) Context, 2) Empathy, 3) Problem Solving, 4) Continuous Learning, 5) Iteration, 6) Sustainable Innovation.
Who developed the Framework?
More than 100 community stakeholders in the InventEd Network, including in- and out-of-school time educators, business leaders, education researchers, nonprofits, policy makers, inventors and representatives of the philanthropic community, contributed to the development of the document.
Why was the Framework created?
The Framework was created to help ensure the quality and integrity of the Invention Education field. It defines the characteristics and principles of best-in-class Invention Education activities and curricula. It also provides a research agenda to inform practices and policies.
Who is the Framework intended for?
The Framework is intended for teachers, administrators, funders, policy makers, and anyone interested in understanding or communicating the principles and characteristics of best-in-class K-12 Invention Education in both formal and informal settings.
How do I use the Framework?
The Framework can be used to help communicate the key values,principles and components of Invention Education to important stakeholder groups, including those who are new to the field. It can also be used to help shape program design and assess the components of Invention Education activities.
What is InventEd?
InventEd is an initiative launched by The Lemelson Foundation to unite a network of K-12 educators, nonprofit leaders, researchers, government agencies, funders and others who are advancing the field of Invention Education.
What is the purpose of the InventEd initiative?
InventEd acts as a coalition to:
• Develop and disseminate tools and resources that promote consistency and rigor in the field. Learn more about available Invention Education resources
• Raise awareness and increase engagement among educators, administrators, policy makers and funders. Find out who is in the Network and how you can participate
• Promote collaboration and learning through the sharing of resources, joint projects and discussion forums. Join an upcoming webinar or event
• Scale Invention Education programming
What is the InventEd Network?
The InventEd Network is a coalition of K-12 educators, nonprofit leaders, researchers, government agencies, funders, and others who are building and supporting the field of Invention Education. We work together throughout the year to learn from one another, share resources and progress, collectively identify and solve problems that advance the field, and increase engagement and understanding of Invention Education.
Who is best suited to participate in the InventEd Network?
Both formal and informal educators, program providers, funders, researchers, and others who are interested in sharing resources and progress, collectively identifying and solving problems that advance the field, and increasing engagement and understanding of Invention Education. Learn more and sign up for our newsletter here
I am a parent interested in learning more about Invention Education for my son or daughter. Where can I find Invention Education opportunities near me?
Many of our InventEd Network members offer in-school and out-of-school opportunities for students to engage in Invention Education. We invite you to read more about the breadth and depth of their offerings here. It’s possible Invention Education programming already exists near you and if not, there are organizations within our Network that can work with you to bring opportunities closer to home.
Is there a cost associated with my participation in the Network?
Right now, there is no cost associated with your participation in the Network. We work as a coalition, so as you are learning and accessing new resources, we hope that you will also share your knowledge, expertise, and ideas with us on community calls, at our annual convening, and in peer working groups.
Can I attend the annual InventEd convening?
The annual convening is by invitation only. We have a lighter-touch, virtual option, called Inspire, that takes place at the same time as the in-person convening. It is open to everyone interested in learning more about Invention Education and the InventEd Network. Inspire talks include keynote addresses, Invention Education 101 sessions, and opportunities to meet Invention Educators, program providers and more. For more information send an email to email@example.com.