There is a wide range of dynamic and vibrant relationships between science and design and technology in industry and academia, yet in schools there is virtually no relationship between the two. The structure and content of the national curriculum provide a major stumbling block to forming a useful relationship; so much so that science and Damp;T teachers know very little about each other.
This is worrying because the synergy that exists between science and technology outside school is lost within school. Pupils develop knowledge and understanding and skills in a fragmented way. Their learning fails to empower them and they do less well in each subject than they might.
Interaction, a report commissioned by the Engineering Council, the body responsible for promoting and regulating the engineering profession, and the Engineering Employers Federation, identifies four areas where an improved relationship would be of mutual benefit and of value in the current performance-criteria-driven climate. These are: reflective practice; mental modelling; using science to inform design decisions; using Damp;T to enhance science understanding.
Co-ordination and collaboration are useful ways to explore these areas, but the idea of an integrated science and technology curriculum was firmly rejected. Damp;T needs to form relationships with other subjects including maths, English and art and design.
What is the way forward? First, we must make possible the development of good practice; second, we need to evaluate that good practice; and third, we need to promote it widely.
The Engineerng Council has set up a working party to implement these recommendations. The first meeting, held earlier this month, produced some interesting results. There is clear support from the Department for Education and Employment and the Department of Trade and Industry, as well as from the Association for Science Education and the Design and Technology Association. The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering are also interested.
A model involving three schools in a locality, working with an institute of higher education to develop and evaluate models of good practice, is seen as a possible way forward.
Malcolm Shirley, director general of the Engineering Council, confirmed his support for this work by saying: "We need young people who understand the importance of the relationship between science and Damp;T and indeed their crucial link with engineering. Engineering underpins the UK economy from mechanical engineering to microchips. This work will help teachers address this vital issue."
So if you are a science or Damp;T teacher interested in developing links between your departments and want to know more, contact us at The Engineering Council, 10 Maltravers Street, London WC2R 3ER. Tel: 020 7557 6454. E-mail email@example.com. And visit our stand at the ASE exhibition on January 3-6 at the University of Surrey, Guildford.
David Barlex is a senior lecturer in education at Brunel University; Richard Shearman is deputy director, engineers' regulation, at the Engineering Council. 'Interaction: the relationship between science and design in the secondary school curriculum' by David Barlex and James Pitt, is on the Engineering Council website: www.engc.org.uk