Diverse directions

27th April 2001 at 01:00
Design and technology is the ideal medium to extend very able pupils, says Paul Shallcross.

Inclusion means supporting the able as much as the less able, and the top 10 per cent of pupils identified as gifted andor talented are now on the agenda for special attention. Design and technology is the ideal medium to stretch such pupils because of its role in the development of all key skills in all phases: communication, application of number, ICT, working with others, improving their own learning and performance and problem-solving. Success with gifted and talented pupils rests with classroom teachers and some of the key issues in Damp;T include:

* how to set expectations of pupils * questioning and posing new avenues of enquiry * knowing what standards and levels to aim at * knowing the progression in knowledge skills and values so that pupils can be moved on effectively and efficiently * challenging and enriching existing school projects through sensitive intervention * access to resources to support extension.

In developing pupils' designing and making skills teachers have to know when to intervene, redirect or open or close down avenues of enquiry, as well as maintain the normal class status quo. It is essential to plan for differentiation and to do this you need to understand progression in the subject. Although setting is prevalent in secondary schools it not difficult at primary level, where specialist or interested teachers could exchange classes to use higher expertise to advantage, as with music, games and maths.

Teachers will need practical workshops from advisers and subject co-ordinator support groups to gain confidence to ask challenging questions of pupils, thus extending thinking and problem-solving skills. They can also look to key stage 3 knowledge and skills and develop stronger liaison between phases.

Most teachers will be working within the usual mixed-ability setting. To support them, a group of local education advisers from south-east England, through the National Association of Advisers and Inspectors in Design and Technology (NAAIDT), detailed design and technology progression throughout the key stages, focusing on exemplary knowledge and skills. This was used to support the rewrite of the national curriculum and schemes of work and culminated in Quality through Progression in Design and Technology (NAAIDT, 1997) which is available from the Design and Technology Assoiation (pound;12 inc pamp;p. Tel: 01789 470007).

The book is designed as a tool for planning and reviewing progression and sharpening quality and differentiation of teaching and learning. Charts exemplify skills - Clarifying the Task, Generating Ideas, Developing Ideas, Communicating Intentions, Planning, Working with Materials, Health and Safety, and Evaluating - from pre-school age to 16. The charts also cover a broad range of knowledge up to GCSE level. (A set of progression charts, NAAIDT 2000, is available from the Kent National Grid for Learning website: www.kented.org.ukngflwebsitestech.html then look for DOWNLOADS or www.naaidt.org.uk) For teachers using the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority's Damp;T primary schemes a special set of charts has been produced to link in with the progression document. To obtain them e-mail: jennifer.ayres@kent.gov.uk and ask for "QCA Schemes against projects". The QCA is developing additional exemplification material on this subject: contact Louise Davies (tel: 020 7509 5555). Elsewhere, the Nuffield Design and Technology Project, Durham University and the QCA are developing "World Class Tests in Design and Technology" for nine to 13-year-olds (see www.qca.org.uk), and in Kent some grammar schools are considering entering pupils a year early for Damp;T GCSE, which gives opportunities to start AS-level one year early.

Open-ended software such as Primary Lego RoboLab RCX (Commotion, tel: 01732 773399) and Techsoft 2D Design Tools (tel: 01824 780318) are traditionally valued in classrooms for their simplistic entry level. The use of software with symbols and help menus, could potentially stretch able primary pupils even to key stage 4 level. For secondary schools, ProDeskTop computer aided design modelling software is one of the best open-ended software available (contact DATA, tel: 01789 470007).

Able pupils are a challenge to teach, and the very able may be critical and demanding. They need open-ended learning contexts that offer depth of study as well as breadth, with design challenges that can lead in diverse directions to stretch and motivate. In schools we recognise and foster talent in music and sport but this is rare with designing and making. Great talent remains untapped and wasted.

Paul Shallcross is adviser for technology for Kent County Council and undertakes national courses through Cornwall College. E-mail: pshallcx@rmplc.co.uk

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