Design and technology

Design and technology lessons are consistently undermined by schools' emphasis on curriculum and assessment at the expense of creativity, new research reveals.

As part of the RSA research, Ian McGimpsey conducted a review of existing findings on effective DT lessons.

DT was distinguished from the design component of art and design lessons by "a concept of purposeful activity," Mr McGimpsey said. This contrasted with art and design's emphasis on "creative self-expression".

However, as creativity has increased in importance across the curriculum, it has also begun to play a more significant role in DT lessons. "Creativity in DT is described as disciplined or progressive towards an end," Mr McGimpsey says.

"To realise this creative potential of design requires risk-taking, student autonomy and a focus on process rather than end product."

But this is undermined by practical concerns, he adds: "The curriculum priorities of content, assessment and economic instrumentalism inhibit DT's ability to realise opportunities for creativity. In essence, the curriculum restricts the ability of DT to be 'designerly'."

Mr McGimpsey concludes that the subject has struggled to retain its emphasis on a "non-linear, creative process" in the face of national tests and published league tables. "In the context of these pressures to conform, it is hard to see how DT could do anything other than struggle," he says.

Timeline: a subject on the wane?

1988: The Education Reform Act establishes DT as a compulsory subject from key stages 1 to 4. It is, unusually, multidisciplinary, incorporating craft, design and technology, art and design, home economics and business education.

1995: DT is slimmed down, and the curriculum focuses primarily on "design and make".

2004: DT ceases to be a compulsory subject at key stage 4.

2010: Details of the English Baccalaureate are unveiled. Its core subjects (English, maths, science, a language, and history or geography) do not include DT.

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