Wicked tasks

27th April 2001 at 01:00
TEACHING AND LEARNING DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY. Edited by John Eggleston. Continuum pound;16.99.

The gap between research, educational policy and school practice has troubled many researchers. Education uninformed by research results in policy driven by fad and mere whim. Equally, research which is remote from practical considerations is likely to be ignored by teachers, however good its academic credentials.

This book, one in an important series of subject-related texts, goes a long way to bridging this divide, with essays from leading researchers in the field, and has the ideal editor in John Eggleston with his clear-thinking approach to issues. As he states in his introduction, "Design and technology enters the new millennium as an established and necessary component of the school curriculum in most major countries across the world. Yet, more than almost any other subject, its roots are complex".

In the past 10 years the research base for the subject has changed substantially, leading to a wide range of papers in refereed journals. John Eggleston has selected carefully, drawing on research across the spectrum from primary schools to higher and adult education.

Clare Benson outlines the introduction of Damp;T in the curriculum and the underlying research. While acknowledging the key role of the subject co-ordinator she understates the role played by LEA advisory teams in supporting and training large numbers of primary school teachers.

Rob Johnsey provides a good example of research, producing valuable advice and observes that "children do not naturally design something and then make it and finally evaluate it. These key skills tend to become dovetailed into one another throughout the task".

Other authors rightly highlight the ambiguities associated with the term "problem-solving". Richard Tufnell's illuminating description of his work on criterion-referenced assessment should be read by those interested in possible models for the assessment of a practical, process-driven subject. Richard Kimbell's description of design tasks as "wicked" is appealing.

Each chapter has its place in the growing body of research. Students, practitioners, researchers, advisers and administrators will find this an accessible and stimulating read.

Bob Welch Bob Welch is principal adviser for Bracknell Forest LEA

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