Brimming with ideas

25th April 1997 at 01:00
RCA Schools Technology Project

DT Challenges Blue (Y9). Pounds 8.99

Teacher's Resource 3 (Y9) Pounds 29.99

DT Routes for Key Stage 4

Student's Core Book Pounds 9.99

Teacher's Resource Pounds 19.99

Hodder Stoughton

Bob Welch on a key stage 4 package which captures the entrepreneurial spirit

Which way will secondary school teachers of design and technology cast their votes? They can choose from three major national organisations, each of which has published copious material to tempt the constituent and each of which has adopted an alternative yet complementary approach. Some may wish for a coalition, selecting the best ideas from each. And this is exactly what a number of DT teachers will be doing, now they can see the resources produced by the three national DT support projects: the Royal college of Art Schools Technology Project; the Nuffield Design and Technology Project and the Technology Enhancement Programme The RCA Project team, has published the final volume of DT Challenges for pupils in Year 9. This completes the key stage 3 package and builds on the previous two volumes. Many teachers will now be familiar with the carefully selected range of ideas and activities included in previous volumes.

This book offers a good variety of designing and making assignments with numerous, well-chosen and interesting case studies from the world beyond school. (The blurb on the cover talks about case studies from the real world, as if school is somehow unreal.) The challenges provide more opportunities for pupils to use a wider range of research techniques and increase their knowledge of industrial practices. The overall theme of entrepreneurship is bound to capture the imagination of young designers.

The real strength of this book lies in the close working relationship which has been established by the team with business organisations, major industrial companies and teachers seconded part-time from schools. This makes the content relevant and realisable in practice within schools.

The activities allow for pupils to work both independently and as members of a team. The text does not patronise and encourages pupils to think carefully about each task and bring their own experience to solving the problem.

Each challenge includes a list of bullet points explaining why an activity will be useful. These are learning objectives in disguise - it's good to see pupils let in on the secret. Illustrations are lively, clear and colourful with good examples of annotated sketches. The challenges cover the full range of media, including food, textiles, control systems and resistant materials.

The second section provides background knowledge required to complete the challenges. Pupils are encouraged to use this section as a reference before seeking help from their teacher. Cross-referencing to other books in the series is very clear. The teacher's guide maps each activity against the programme of study and gives valuable additional guidance on each challenge. A very useful section links the challenge to the optional end of key stage 3 tasks and provides guidance on assessing the outcomes at three levels. The book is linked to a Channel 4 Schools television series, Real Life Design.

Building on the work already published for key stage 3, the team has produced material to cover the range of options available at KS4. The DT Routes Teacher's Resource for Key Stage 4 claims to provide guidance on turning a syllabus into a course. It does a great deal more. It covers aspects such as effective teaching and learning assessment, curriculum planning and managing a department.

At nearly Pounds 20 it could be considered expensive, but it is packed with useful ideas and checklists. The project team is also to be congratulated on producing a book for pupils taking a short course in any medium. This was quite a challenge, but is of vital importance in helping to provide coherence across the various KS4 pathways.

Routes provides a wealth of information on analysing products, designing and manufacturing. The core book can be supplemented by others linked to each focus area. The series should form part of the resources of any DT department.

Bob Welch is inspector for technology for Berkshire

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