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The 5 key principles missing from Design & Technology education

The 5 key principles missing from Design & Technology education

27 February 2013 Written by By Bel Reed Programme Lead

I am not a huge fan of the Government's new proposals for the Design & Technology curriculum. I am disappointed that the Department for Education didn’t pick up on our proposals (after inviting us to input into the process) and that the proposed curriculum just doesn’t seem to grasp the true value of design-led thinking and learning.

So what I want to do here is outline the five fundamental principles of a Design & Technology curriculum.

Please do let me know what you think, especially if you work in the design industry or education. It would be great to develop a curriculum we can present back to the Department of Education with one voice.

1. Build a design literate society

A design literate society means children and young people become critical consumers, users, commissioners and creators of design. Through design they build up a set of transferable skills that include:

  • Being able to define a problem and having knowledge of the resources to address it
  • Being able to critique and assess work and articulate the thought process
  • Understanding the context of economics, industrial developments, demographic change, sociocultural influence and technological advancements, necessary when assessing design
  • Understanding the value of commissioning design to deliver effective results in business, organisations or communities

These skills empower people to be active citizens and agents of change for social, as well as economic, impact.

2. Apply user-centred design methods

User-centred design methods mean placing people, the users, at the heart of any problem. To successfully achieve this, students need to:

  • Develop skills in research, observation, empathy, ethnography, co creation and usability testing
  • Gain a knowledge of convergent and divergent thinking processes attributable to design (e.g. the Double Diamond) and an awareness that design is an iterative process
  • Understand the role of sustainability and ethics in user-centred design

3. Ensure a multidisciplinary approach is at the heart of learning

  • Design is the bridge between arts, science, technology and business – it brings together creativity, innovation and enterprise in an applied way. For example, linking design and science can turn new and existing knowledge into innovative products, services and commercial opportunities
  • Design should not be taught through a specific discipline initially; the starting point should be the problem you are trying to address, you then decide what set of disciplines are most appropriate in addressing the problem
  • The design approach brings people from different disciplines together to tackle a problem from every angle, delivering better outcomes

4. Develop technical skills

  • Development of technical skills that focus on visualisation and realisation of ideas and information, with a focus on drawing, digital design and prototyping
  • Knowledge and understanding of the current and emergent means of production, manufacturing and digital technologies

5. Be embedded within an industrial, academic and cultural framework

  • Industrial: bring professionals in to the classroom and teach using real briefs and processes (team working, project management, pitching). Develop knowledge and insight of new genres in design (e.g. service design, behavioural economics and biomimicry). Establish continuity between the classroom and the rigour of professional design practice
  • Academic: establish a clear relationship between academic theory of design in Higher Education and classroom teaching
  • Cultural: ensure an understanding of Britain's contemporary design practice and design heritage, and knowledge of international design practice

These are my five principles of what a Design & Technology curriculum should look like. It radically repositions D&T in education, and I think that's essential. However, to achieve this, we must demonstrate rigour and relevance in order to win over parents, industry and Government.

Unless we can reinvigorate design education, we risk losing a design generation.

Let me know what you think in the box below and, if you agree with these principles for a D&T curriculum, please share your thoughts with the Department for Education.

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