The theory of Assemble, and the essential ingredients of our remix

Assemble’s pedagogy is a remix! We take ideas from education thinkers, research about human development, and learning frameworks. We try them out in our space, combine them with each other, add our own twist, and grow with what works. We’re OK with getting it wrong sometimes, because we know that’s part of learning. And we always respect ourselves, each other, our students, and our space as we experiment, creating space to change and be transparent as we learn.

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In this section, you’ll find the essential ingredients in our remix: the big ideas we’ve learned from, experimented with, and use every day.

<aside> 📰 Inspiration Citation: The sections below include learning frameworks built on foundations laid by philosophers, researchers, psychologists, teachers, and social scientists. If you’re interested in digging deeper, here are a few thinkers that have influenced us:

➡️ Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development ➡️ Lev Vygotsky’s theory of social constructivism ➡️ Maria Montessori’s methods of modeling and respect ➡️ Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings’ scholarship on culturally relevant pedagogy ➡️ Rudolf Steiner’s Waldorf educational theories on the environment and patterns ➡️ The Reggio Emilia approach to community and exploration ➡️ Dr. Christopher Emdin’s reality pedagogy ➡️ Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs ➡️ Zaretta Hammond’s equity-focused work on instruction and the brain ➡️ Mimi Ito (and her colleagues)’s HOMAGO framework ➡️ Benjamin Bloom’s taxonomy of learning in action ➡️ Paulo Friere’s pedagogy of the oppressed ➡️ adrienne maree brown’s emergent work through Allied Media Conference ➡️ Marshall McLuhan’s new media theory


Interdisciplinary learning

Human beings create categories to make sense of the world. We break things down by patterns. It’s a really important human capability that helps us bring order to chaos and create structures upon which to build understanding.

As a result, we live in a world of categories and assumptions. This segregation of topics and practitioners is often found in academic spaces. For example, people who do science are called scientists. If they are using science for studying birds, they are called ornithologists. Folks who use numbers to measure, compute, and predict are called mathematicians. Someone designing a new bridge might be a structural engineer. One who creates paintings would be called an artist. Folks who use sound to make art might be called musicians. Someone who fixed your computer might be a technologist.

These categories and subcategories don't occur naturally—they're made up by people and can be changed by people. We need to put names to these things to help cope with the infinite complexity of reality, but there's a downside: crushing potential. It may be easier to process information when it's neatly organized, but this can easily lead to barriers that exclude folks.

Rigid categories diminish the full person and flatten identity to one way of “practicing” science, technology, engineering, art, or math. The truth is, nobody fits into just one category. Ornithologists take photographs of birds to do science. They use measurements and math to predict flight patterns. Musicians use math to write down their compositions as they figure out the timing and beats. They use and create technology (we call them instruments) to perform and record music. We could go on and on about how it is all interconnected, but you get the picture.

<aside> ⚙️ Heads Up: See more in Practice.


It's through this mixing of disciplines that we invent, collaborate, and do other 21st-century things. Interdisciplinary learning is about breaking down the barriers to see how all these things are deeply connected and can be used together to create new and innovative solutions.

You might know interdisciplinary learning as STEAM, the popular acronym that combines Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. That’s usually how we refer to it, too! These five categories are often not in the same room (or even the same sentence) with each other, but we are practicing all of them every day.

<aside> 📰 Inspiration Citation: The strict separation between the disciplines that predominates in school can be one of the reasons young people don't see themselves as one who can practice science, create technology, engineer something, produce art, or prove with math. **Check out Sir Ken Robinson’s video on changing school paradigms!**


At least four incredible things happen when we get STEAMy:

Assemble activates each STEAM discipline in service of learning. We use...

Science to observe the world around us

Technology to make something new

Engineering to change what already exists

Art to communicate what we see, feel, and know

Math to prove what's happening