The Design and Technology Curriculum
‘You don’t think your way to creative work. You work your way to creative thinking.’
- George Nelson, furniture designer and modernist
‘Cooking with kids is not just about ingredients, recipes, and cooking. It’s about harnessing imagination, empowerment, and creativity.’
- Guy Fieri, restaurateur, author and cooking personality
At Spinney Hill Primary School we know that the practical nature of design and technology is an excellent route to not only inspire children to be creative and employ their imaginations, but also a means of encouraging critical and systematic thinking as they work creatively to design and make products that solve relevant problems in real-life contexts. Our DT curriculum milestones, created from the National Curriculum programmes of study, carefully map out the process of developing ideas, design, product creation and evaluation which all children will follow as they master a secure foundation in the basics of cooking, mechanics and textiles. As children do so and progress through the school, they develop not only an understanding of the importance of design and technology within our daily lives and the entrepreneurial opportunities which exist in considering their own and others needs and wants, but also a foundation in the knowledge and practical skills – from cooking to sewing – which will enable them to live healthier and more sustainable lives alongside the ability to perform everyday tasks. The acquisition of key vocabulary and concepts underpins all teaching of design and technology, and this is embedded through the use of discussion and debate scaffolds as children employ talk and oracy to develop their creativity, solve problems and think critically about and around the task in hand.
Our design and technology curriculum has been designed to ensure there is clear progression in the acquisition of skills and knowledge across the school and our milestones clearly set out the specific knowledge and understanding that pupils should learn and apply when developing ideas, planning, making products and evaluating. As teachers plan lessons, they refer to prior units of work children will have covered to ensure that there is a firm foundation for new learning and connections made with prior knowledge and skills children have acquired.
A key feature of lessons and a prerequisite to successful learning is the ability of teachers to both talk knowledgably about the area of study and to be able to model skills and techniques accurately and effectively. To support this, teachers ensure, where necessary, they have prepared their own ‘model’ of work which serves to develop both their subject knowledge and confidence in teaching different techniques.
All design and technology lessons follow a series of core stages. These may differ and be altered in light of the focus of a unit of work, but will be included within it to a greater or lesser degree.
1. The Enquiry Question
Lessons begin with a considered and well thought out enquiry question which sets the scene for the introduction of the design criteria or brief outlining the design and making of a product for somebody or for a particular purpose. Teachers understand that good D&T involves children thinking about what products are used for and the needs of those who use them, offering the depth and breadth to help pupils to learn practical skills and provide them with the knowledge to make products. They also understand that simply modelling, drawing or using materials does not constitute D&T.
2. The Design Criteria
The design criteria is introduced in a real-life context or one with which the children are familiar. From this they understand for whom they are designing and making a product, the purpose of the product and the criteria it must meet – the brief. As children progress through the school, this is expanded to consider aesthetics, function and innovation. At this point children should, where possible, investigate existing or similar products to understand their function and what constitutes good design.
3. The Design Plan
Children develop and communicate their ideas through the creation of a design plan. The complexity of this will depend upon the age of the children. The expectation by year 6 is that plan will include annotated drawings, steps in construction, basic cross-sectional and exploded diagrams, and begin to take into account time, resources, cost and feasibility. At this point, children’s designs will be guided, refined and innovated through collaboration with peers and as result of high-quality teacher modelling, discussion and questioning.
4. Making the product
Following modelling by the teacher of specific skills and techniques, children select the tools and materials they will require and make the product, amending their design and product as they work in light of problems they may encounter.
5. Product testing and evaluation
Children finally test their products either practically, against their design criteria or, where possible, through discussion and testing with their target market. From their own testing or from the feedback of others, children think critcally and evaluate their products. They identify where and why they have been successful and areas in need of development and ways of doing this.
The structure of lessons and the length of a unit of work will depend on the area of study within D&T. However, throughout all lessons, teachers model the use of technical language and subject-specific terms and allow children to embed these through high-quality ‘checking for learning’ questioning and within scaffolded debate and discussion.
The impact of our design and technology curriculum is monitored and evaluated in a variety of different ways. Learning walks, work sampling and monitoring of learning environments are carried out by the D&T curriculum lead to identify how ready children are for the next stage in their learning, how well key skills and techniques have been developed and embedded, and to identify areas in need of development. Pupil interviews and discussion are key to assessing how well pupils are retaining prior-learning and making connections with the new areas of D&T they are studying. In addition to this, each child’s progress is monitored by class teachers who assess them against our milestones. Teachers also create ‘impact’ pages on teams to provide a snap-shot of learning to reflect both what has been covered and to illustrate what children are capable of achieving.