Clipped From The Guardian

denis_dom Member Photo

Clipped by denis_dom

 - The designs floor a sOnaupeir mew ttechnology...
The designs floor a sOnaupeir mew ttechnology Jim Sweetman reports on the proposed new orders for technology. THE HMI review of technology, which reported to John Patten just before Christmas, was blessed with the advantage of being seen unanimously as essential. The existing order is badly phrased and elaborate. It offers a model of the subject which has proved almost impossible to deliver in primary schools and is, in many ways, too demanding for most secondary pupils. It has been roundly criticised both for its conceptual approach involving detailed discussions of design need and the evaluation of completed artefacts and for the model of classroom practice it fosters, dubbed "Blue Peter engineering" by its critics. Instead of being invited to undertake a full review, the review group led by HMI was asked to clarify the order, to find a better balance between skills and knowledge and to beef up the subject's materials and constructional aspects. As an afterthought, they were told to come up with some ideas about short courses at GCSE. Given such a disjointed agenda, it is hardly surprising that the group have finally come up with something which amounts to a wholesale rewrite and a complete change in direction. They have proposed that the four Attainment Targets of the current subject should be compressed into two, ATI Designing and AT2 Making. Some aspects of design need have been incorporated into ATI and a nod in the direction of evaluation appears in AT2. The number of Statements of Attainment (SoAs) has been halved to around 50 and the Programmes of Study are now specific to each level and cross-referenced to the strands in the SoAs. This approach is familiar from earlier maths and science reviews. It is designed to take out irrelevant material, to re-group Attainment Targets and Statements so that they run parallel and to give clear examples for teachers. These aims are welcome, but critics have argued in the past that such an approach emphasises the testable over the educationally desirable. There is a new, welcome definition of design and technology. This stresses that they are the deployment of knowledge and skills in the design of items which are fit for their intended purpose. A distinct emphasis is placed on the use of constructional materials to make three-dimensional objects. Key to this is the new Designing and Making Task, or DMT. The DMT is a set, closely prescribed task which involves the pupil in specific, highly detailed activities. It is likely to be similar to the "long" SAT task to be piloted this year at Key Stage 3. Pupils will be expected to complete two DMTs each year up to Key Stage 3. The sheer detail defined in the DMTs makes the proposals seem rigid. The routes for teachers so diffuse in the existing order are now to be strictly regimented, leaving little space for initiation. The winners are clearly the engineers. The Engineering Council expressed delight at the proposals and those schools which replaced their workshops with high-tech suites may come to regret it. The losers are the home economists, wiped out at Key Stage 1 and diminished at all other levels; the textile specialists, turned into an aspect of materials science; and the graphic designers, abandoned on the margins of Key Stages 3 and 4. Quite how information technology exempted from the subject review relates to these changes is also unclear. If design and making with materials becomes the norm, then the more esoteric aspects of information technology seem certain to be neglected. There may also be a gender bias in proposals which so firmly advocate traditional, workshop approaches. Of course, these are still only proposals. They have been passed by the Secretary of State to the NCC and are now part of a consultation phase up to Easter. Meanwhile, the policy shift which inspired them is already having an effect. The Key Stage 3 tasks devised for the national testing in June rely heavily on the Making and Designing Attainment Targets in the existing order, neglecting need and evaluation. The new, approved GCSE syllabuses follow the same line. In a sense, SEAC jumped the gun on the subject review by revising GCSE criteria in advance of the changes. Some examining groups have new courses ready for publication and distribution, which can be examined as early as 1995. If this, and past experience, is anything to go by. it is unlikely that theconsultation will result in any major changes to the proposals. But most commentators would welcome some relaxation over the DMTs. The NCC's forthcoming Primary Review is also likely to look for less technology in the primary school than the proposals anticipate. And there is a group of Design Technologists lobbying for a broader conception of design. For the present, a project-based approach to what many think of as engineering and with more than a whiff of the old craft-apprenticeship remains in the ascendancy. JANUARY 19 1993

Clipped from
  1. The Guardian,
  2. 19 Jan 1993, Tue,
  3. Page 52

denis_dom Member Photo

Want to comment on this Clipping? Sign up for a free account, or sign in