Secondary DT - Designs on the future

21st November 2008 at 00:00
A taste of the workplace can help motivate art and technology pupils, says Stephen Duff

Working with real designers on special projects has paid dividends for art and technology pupils at Garnock Academy in Ayrshire.

Design Day was the finale of a five-week project for the pupils, aged 12 to 13, who undertook a design task in class and produced a folio that recorded their progress. Each group of four pupils then created a 3-D scale model of their final solution.

Design Day was the culmination of this programme. We invited industrial partners to come to provide a live design brief relating to their place of work. A variety of companies took part, from fireplace designers and aeronautic engineers to fabric designers and photographers. This helped the pupils see the huge choice of careers associated with the experience they were gaining.

The pupils worked in their groups and visited each industrial partner during the morning. All the activities lasted 25 minutes and included tasks to design:

- An advert (with the images provided) for a new restaurant.

- A product for a company that uses sheet acrylic, using sketch modelling techniques only.

- A high-class packaging for a company that sells silk ties.

At the end of the allocated time, each industrial partner assigned marks for the solutions. It wasn't easy, as they did not like differentiating between solutions that would work well and others that would require development. But the pupils enjoyed receiving feedback from experts, and understood why a particular solution might require further work.

This session was demanding for the pupils and there were times when I had to boost their confidence between tasks. But as I walked around the hall and watched them engage with real design situations, it confirmed that this sort of cross-curricular working enhances their learning experience.

It's also beneficial for the teachers, as it introduces them to new methods and approaches.

The afternoon session was much more chaotic, as pupils assessed the work produced in class by their peers. All the folios and 3-D models were spread across the floor and each group had to go round giving scores for creativity. All the work was anonymous, so they couldn't vote for their friends. They were given two minutes at each group, then I blew my whistle and they moved on.

This activity was noisy and there was lots of movement, but the children were in charge and responsible for success. It was far removed from normal classroom practice, but successful. The group discussion, while deciding a score, was intelligent, thoughtful and included many of the buzzwords used in the classroom.

We totalled the marks from morning and afternoon sessions to find a winning group.

The feedback was extremely positive. The industrial partners said that the activity was so relevant to their workplace and unlike any other event they had taken part in. The pupils loved working with outside agencies and having the opportunity to assess one another.

The project also promotes teacher development, but the greatest benefit is for the pupils: they work in groups, they communicate effectively, they explore topics in depth but, most importantly, they have fun

Stephen Duff is principal teacher of art, design and technology at Garnock Academy in North Ayrshire, Scotland.

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