Can you define the nature of d&t?

It looks as if Elizabeth Truss is listening to the latest advice given to her by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Design & Technology Association.

You can find this advice here Advice_on_D&T_programme_of_study_presented_to_DfE

In her response Elizabeth wrote, “I believe the draft you have submitted is strong and welcome in particular the way in which it embodies the coherence and conceptual rigour of design & technology”.

So it seems as if the more than dreadful proposals of last February are now consigned to the past.

However it is important that we are not complacent. It will be essential to turn the resulting programme of study into excellent practice in the majority of schools. One of the problems we face is that despite 20 plus years of d&t national Curriculum programmes of study there appears to be little consensus amongst teachers as to the nature of the subject. John Williams, a well respected academic and colleague of mine, carried out an interesting enquiry. He asked a number of relatively new to teaching science and design & technology teachers what they thought were ‘enduring ideas’ in their subject and how these might be taught. The science teachers had no difficulty about agreeing on the first part of the task and were soon discussing how to teach such tricky ideas as the particulate nature of matter and elements and compounds whereas the design & technology teachers spent all the allocated time disagreeing about the nature of design & technology and what might or might not be ‘enduring ideas’. To those of us who know design & technology teachers this might not come as a surprise but this lack of unanimity is a cause of great concern.  If amongst ourselves we cannot agree about our subject then we will have little success in communicating its worth to others. So here’s a challenge for your d&t deparment – identify no more than 10 agreed ‘enduring ideas’ that all pupils should be taught in their design & technology lessons. To give the challenge some structure,  divide your ideas into ideas of design & technology ideas (ideas that are used by designers and technologists) and ideas about design & technology (ideas that explain what design & technology is like and how it works in society).

Torben and I look forward to hearing about your thoughts!

EU SECURE Project important for MST Education in England?

The journey from policy to practice is long, complex and often tortuous. Yet the SECURE project (see http://www.secure-project.eu/) has grasped the nettle of doing research and making recommendations to support this journey for mathematics, science and technology (MST) education. Researchers across 10 EU countries, including England, have gathered data to identify desirable practice in MST education for pupils aged 5 – 13 years and its relationship to policy, compared this with existing/prevailing practice and policy, challenged existing/prevailing practice and policy and developed recommendations that are designed to lead to different more desirable practice and policy. The report is due to be published this autumn.

It’s definitely a report to watch out for. It looks as though there will be recommendations concerning approaches to teaching and learning and CPD as well as guidance to politicians as to policy making that will support MST education.

Ex-troops without degrees to become teachers

There is no doubt that many of our serving military have an extremely high level of technical skill. Such skills are deployed in situations where there are no prizes for coming second so their knowledge and skill has to be of a very high order. In my role of an external examiner I once met an ex-serviceman who was training to be a teacher. He had been a member of the SAS on the Falklands. There was absolutely no doubt that he was extremely competent and extremely tough although neither was particularly apparent from his appearance or demeanor. I had to ask him about his experiences on teaching placement. This is what he said. “I’ve never been more scared than when I was with a challenging group of year 9 pupils on a Friday afternoon with half an hour of the lesson left and I had run out of things for them to do. Shouting at them didn’t work and all my military expertise was to no avail.” So what did you learn from this I asked. “Actually it’s straightforward”, he said, “Always prepare more than you think you’re going to need, absolutely essential to have more than a little something up your sleeve.” He went on to become a very accomplished teacher.  So the points made about discipline in the classroom being different to discipline in the services are well made but I don’t see that those with an aptitude for teaching can’t adapt to the classroom situation. A former school student of mine who served in the Royal Navy told me a Navy saying which indicates that many military folk might have the right attitude to this need to change. “Remember the seven Ps – Proper Prior Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance”.

My question is who will be responsible for the “on the job four days a week one day at university “ approach suggested by the government? Schools Direct?