Bring out the 'wow' factor

18th March 2005 at 00:00
GCSE aims to stimulate creativity, report Joseph Lee and Stephen Lucas

A new GCSE design and technology course is being developed amid fears that the most creative pupils are being given mediocre grades.

The OCR exam board is designing an exam focusing on creativity, called Design In Mind, following criticism that design and technology courses fail to reward imagination and talent.

The move was welcomed by Wayne Hemingway, founder of the Red or Dead clothing label and co-director of the consultancy Hemingway Design.

He said: "The education system does not reward the people I want working for me. This new exam can only be a good thing."

Design in Mind draws on research by Professor Richard Kimbell, of Goldsmiths college in London, who said the subject has effectively become a form-filling exercise. His research, sponsored by the Department for Education and Skills, was intended to design a way of assessing creativity.

Professor Kimbell said the pressure on schools and students to get results meant that there was no room for risk-taking.

"The portfolio is not created, it's formulaic. It's safe, not inventive.

"What is key is the sophisticated concept of the difference between 'Wow'

and 'Yawn'."

Professor Kimbell drew up assessment criteria by analysing examples of students' "exciting, edgy" work, as well as teachers' more workmanlike efforts, He trialled activities with 400 students in 20 schools, intended to encourage pupils to be creative and assess their performance.

Exam boards developed more assessments to cover the range of design and technology: product design, systems and controls, graphics, textiles and food.

They proved a consistent judgement of students' performance, with 80 per cent scoring almost the same grade on a 12-point scale between two tests.

Professor Kimbell said they also revealed pupils' hidden talents. "Two of the four most inventive students were predicted to get grade C. What an indictment is that?"

The OCR is building on the work to create its new GCSE exam, which will be piloted in schools from September. It will reward flair and imagination as well as more traditional designing and making skills.

Merrick Smith, OCR qualification manager, technology, said: "The GCSE product design specification will hopefully encourage students to use imagination and creativity."

But Mr Hemingway has concerns. He said: "The worry is they will not have the right people setting, marking and teaching the exam.

"It's not easy to pick out true creativity - people with ideas that could fly and work rather than those that are daft."

* joseph.lee@tes.co.uk

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