Better by design

29th December 2000 at 00:00
Whatever children are designing, they should be using a wide range of thinking skills, says Clare Benson.

For many children designing consists of drawing a picture of what they will make, with little further exploration or experiences to develop their design ideas and skills. This is not designing.

What is designing? In essence, for those developing designing at key stage 1 and 2, it is a way in which a pupil uses a range of thinking skills - for example creative, spatial and analytical - to create a product that is appropriate for its purpose and user. The pupil needs to apply previous experiences, knowledge and understanding, gained partly through investigation and evaluation activities and focused practical tasks, to take their ideas forward and to develop specific criteria for their product.

Useful strategies:

* Provide a framework for pupils' work. This should include generating ideas and clarifying the task, developing and communicating ideas, planning, and evaluating.

* Frame questions carefully: What do we need to know? How is the product fit for its purpose? How can we show our ideas to others? How will the parts fit together? In what order do we need to do tasks? How well does it work? How does it meet the original criteria?

* Evaluate other products.

* Suggest pupils sketch parts of the product they want to make, to show, for example, how a handle will be joined to a bag or how the cam mechanism is going to work in a toy.

* Show pupils design sketches made by other designers, including their peers.

* Ask pupils to visualise their end product.

* Use worksheets initially to support the design activities and structure the work.

* Leave time to evaluate the ideas as well as the end product.

* Celebrate the designing by, for example, creating wall displays, a design folder, and rewarding not just the end product but good design.

Clare Benson is professor of education at the University of Central England, Birmingham


Wipe-clean, large sized worksheets to support designing. For example TTS makes a set of 30 small whiteboards with pens and cleaner, pound;35 the pack. Tel: 0800 318686.

* Materials from in-service sessions: see the DATA Inset manuals volumes 1 and 2. Tel: 01789 470007 * Publications, such as DATA's large-size magazine, Designing, published termly. Tel: 01789 470007.

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