Ofqual D&T assessment consultation

Design and technolog GSCE assessmentThis is the fourth in a series of posts on the GCSE D&T Curriculum Reform Consultations that David and Torben have written together. It builds on the first post, which introduced some of the thinking of the Design & Technology Association working group in justifying a single GCSE title D&T, a second post that examined the proposed D&T content in some detail and the third post focused on the Areas of Interest. This post discusses the proposed assessment arrangements outlined in the Ofqual consultation (this consultation is being run independently of the DfE consultation that we have largely focussed on up to now).

The nature of the non-exam assessment (NEA)

The Design & Technology working group was taken with the idea of using open starting points to ensure that students explored the context of their design challenge before developing any sort of design brief.

(Starting points refer to situations/scenarios from which students are able to create and contextualise their own design brief.)

The working group thought that this was important because it would prevent students deciding what they were going to make at the start of the challenge – the ‘I’m going to make a coffee table for the living room at home’ syndrome. Open starting points refer to situations/scenarios, which students explore in order in order to establish sufficient understanding of the context to be able to create their own design brief. To ensure that this approach was embedded into the NEA the working group suggested that:

  • each awarding organisation will release starting points that students must use in order to create their own individual design brief in order to contextualise their own design and making project
  • the starting points will be released by all awarding organisations to students and teachers on 1 June in the year prior to certification
  • new starting points will be released each academic year in accordance with the timescale above
  • the starting points will not directly relate to any Area of Interest
  • students will be required to apply their knowledge, understanding and skills of the designing and making and the technical principles
  • students must submit clear evidence of their iterative design process and produce a practical outcome in the form of a final product or prototype.

However, there is no guidance at all in the Ofqual proposals about the nature of the non-exam assessment and this is a concern. Is the implication that awarding organisations will be free to make their own proposals here? And if so, by what criteria will these proposals be judged? The journey from open coursework projects to much more closed projects and ultimately the (tightly) controlled assessments was, we believe, a huge loss to the subject. We do understand that a move to open projects would require a great deal of teacher support, but we think that could be provided and the subject would be richer – and more rigorous, for it.

It seems to us likely that, without any pressure to do otherwise, AOs will default to the current form of non-exam assessments and we’ll get something very like controlled assessments offered again.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the absence of any guidance from Ofqual on the nature of the NEA is problematic, then please say so in your response.

If you agree that the NEA for D&T should be based on open starting points, then make this clear.

Minimally invasive assessment

There is nothing in the proposals about how pupils will provide evidence for non-examined assessments. We suspect that, without external push, the AOs will default to what they know; death by portfolio.

Nick Givens (writing as long ago as 1998 in response to a consultation on Creativity and Cultural Education) clarifies the problem:

Our [the teacher’s] problem always has been, and remains, that of finding efficient painless ways of generating EVIDENCE that don’t stifle the creativity. So the ritualisation of designing, the conversion of the design folio into a product and the inflexible narrow interpretation of what constitutes design, represent a major problem. There needs to be scope for pupils to model and record their thinking in a variety of ways AND orders. We can’t carry on letting a narrow view of what constitutes EVIDENCE-of-design dictate the NATURE of design.

The work carried out by Richard Kimbell and his colleagues at TERU in the e-scape project provides an interesting approach to assessing capability in D&T. It involves using structured testing materials over two half-day blocks under examination conditions. This is a huge step forward compared to the stranglehold that the coursework portfolio has over pupil assessment in design & technology. However despite the undoubted achievement of this project we have significant reservations about this one-size fits all timed test as the best way for pupils to reveal their capability. It does not meet Nick Givens requirement for pupils to have the scope to record their thinking in a variety of ways AND orders.

We think it is important that any NEA should be minimally invasive, i.e. the way the pupil’s work is assessed will be such that it will not distort their educative experience in tackling their designing and making task. We suggest that the way pupils can be given appropriate freedom to decide on their own designing and making pathway is for the teacher to support them in the use of ‘job bags’.

The criteria for the contents of job bags are simple. The pupil’s work, be it in the form of written notes, annotated sketches, 3D models, working drawings, patterns, recipes, plans, schedules, still photos, video recordings, audio recordings, questionnaire data or calculations, must have utility. It must be present only because at the time it was produced it was done to help move the designing and making task forward. Such a miscellany would be personal to the pupil and it is likely that there would be considerable variation in content of such job bags even amongst pupils tackling identical design and make tasks. However, the job bag would not be the primary source of assessment evidence. It would be the evidence that the pupil called upon to reveal and justify their decisions. And it is the revelation and justification of the design decisions demonstrated at three points during a designing and making task that provides the bulk of the assessment evidence for the pupil’s designerly activity.

The first point is reached when a pupil has explored the context and developed his or her first ideas for a product in response to the context. A pupil will be asked to consider whether the developed proposals meet the revelations of the context and requirements of the brief and to clarify and justify the design decisions made so far. The pupil will also be required to review these decisions and consider whether what s/he is proposing is likely to be achievable in relation to resources of time, materials, equipment and personal skills.

The second point is reached when most of a pupil’s design decisions have been made through sketching, 3D modelling, and experimenting. This will be at the point where making is imminent or has just started. Again, the pupil will be asked to clarify and justify the design decisions made so far and then review these decisions and consider whether the design arrived at fully meets the requirements of the brief and whether the plans for making are achievable.

The third point will be reached when the product is complete and will include an evaluation against the brief and the specification.

The emphasis of these points or reflection will be on revealing a pupil’s response to the emerging demands of the task in terms of the decisions made and the extent to which they are realistic. Note that it is the contents of the pupil’s job bag that is the source of the information the pupils need to make the necessary reflection and it is the contents of this reflection that provides the assessment evidence. This approach to assessment is discussed in more detail here but we think this approach is worth exploring further by the Awarding Organisations as an alternative to current practice.

Consultation Action

If you think that the Awarding Organisations should develop means of assessing pupil’s designing and making tasks that avoids death by portfolio yet allows a personal response such that they can record their thinking in a variety of ways AND orders then recommend this in your response to the consultation.

Consultation Action

If you think that the Awarding Organisations should develop means of assessing pupil’s knowledge and understanding of the subject’s enduring ideas as well as their procedural competence in the NEA then recommend this in your response to the consultation.

The written paper

We note that in the DfE consultation, under Subject Content, point ‘7’ says:

Specifications must require students to study these principles in the context of one of the areas of interest defined in paragraph 13.

Our position is this. If we limit what young people should know and understand and be able to do to that which is required to successfully tackle a major designing and making task we are selling the subject short. Not that tackling such a task is an insignificant endeavour. It is not. It requires hard investigative work to appreciate the nature of the problem the task has to address, what we might call knowledge of the problem. For an authentic task this knowledge cannot be ‘taught from the front’ or looked up in a textbook. It has to be sought out through a user-centred approach to design. Techniques for doing this can of course be taught. Then in responding to the problem there are all sorts of knowledge, understanding and skill needed – what we might call knowledge for the solution. Some of this a pupil may have been taught but some may well be beyond what has been taught and the pupil will need to find out for herself. But however demanding any one project might be it cannot cover the breadth of knowledge required to appreciate a whole subject. So limiting assessment of design & technology to the procedural competence, however knowledge, understanding and skill dependent, is, we believe, insufficient. We want to assess the extent to which pupils have really grasped the enduring ideas that are important in design & technology in a way that is true to the nature of design & technology. And allied to this wider interpretation of what is worth knowing about and learning through a broad and balanced design & technology course is developing ‘technological perspective’. By this we mean giving young people insight into ‘how technology works’ such that they develop a constructively critical view of technology, do not become alienated from the technologically based society in which they live and are able to consider how technology might be used to provide products and systems that help create the sort of society in which they wish to live.

Hence we believe that the written paper should be completely independent of the Area of Interest that candidates have chosen and deal with assessing the understanding of enduring ideas that are important in the subject of design & technology and probing candidates technological perspective.

Consultation Action

If you think that the written paper should be completely independent of the Areas of Interest that candidates have chosen, then please recommend this in your response to the consultation.

Of course rigorous assessment of the enduring ideas in design & technology will be difficult as this territory is not that well explored. However here is an initial foray into thinking about questions for consideration.

  • Some questions will need to probe specifics, others should be synoptic, requiring candidates to draw on knowledge and understanding from a range of specifics.
  • Most, if not all, questions should require the use of knowledge to show understanding as opposed to simply being able to recall particular pieces of knowledge.
  • We see many questions as requiring candidates to respond to/resolve different sorts of designerly dilemmas.
  • Some questions can require explanatory writing; in some cases quite extended writing. How such answers can be marked will be a challenge. However English and History teachers have that expertise and we can look to them for advice and guidance.
  • The majority of questions should be structured into parts that scaffold the candidate in developing a solution to a problem.
  • Some questions will require quantitative as well as qualitative reasoning.
  • Some questions can be multiple choice.
  • One type of multiple choice question that might be interesting to explore is the ‘assertion reason’ question. The overall form is
    “Statement A” because “Statement B”
    The two statements can each be either true or false and, in any case, Statement B might or might not be an explanation of Statement A.
    An example assertion might be “Cows eat grass because the sky is blue”. “Cows eat grass” is true, “The sky is blue” is true, but the sky being blue is NOT an explanation of why cows eat grass. The question offers various possible answers that candidates can select from, these are permutations of the truth or falsity of the initial statements and the assertion.
    These questions are demanding to write but really probing in terms of knowledge and understanding.
  • Some questions will be like none of the above as we work out different sorts of questions for our purpose

Developing such questions will be a challenge but it is one to which the subject must rise.

Consultation Action

If you agree that a good range of question types will be needed within the written examinations then please say so in your response and suggest that the Awarding Organisations should develop and disseminate details of such question types.

The proposed Assessment Objectives

These are shown below and, as far as they go, we are happy with them and the proposed weightings.

Assessment objectives Weighting
AO1 Investigate design possibilities and considerations for development. 15%
AO2 Design and make products / prototypes that meet needs and solve problems. 35%
AO3 Justify design decisions and analyse and evaluate products / prototypes made by themselves and others. 20%
AO4 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of designing, making and technical principles. 30%

However, what this table doesn’t make clear is how these AOs are distributed between the written paper and the NEA. We think something like the following allocation would be appropriate:

  Assessment objectives Exam NEA Total Weighting
AO1 Investigate design possibilities and considerations for development. 10% 5% 15%
AO2 Design and make products / prototypes that meet needs and solve problems. 0% 35% 35%
AO3 Justify design decisions and analyse and evaluate products / prototypes made by themselves and others. 15% 5% 20%
AO4 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of designing, making and technical principles. 25% 5% 30%
Total 50% 50% 100%

This is based on our clear view (above) that the marks for the NEA should be awarded on the basis of candidates’ ability to design and make within their Area of Interest. The marks for the written paper should be awarded on the basis of the demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the enduring ideas pertinent to design & technology and independent of their chosen Area of Interest.

But the fine detail isn’t important here; what is important is that Ofqual should prescribe these weightings for the Awarding Bodies.

Consultation Action

If you think that the weightings of the AOs between the Exam and the NEA should be prescribed by Ofqual then please recommend this in your response to the consultation.

Tiering

The lack of tiering is definitely to be welcomed. We know from other subjects, such as Science, that tiering is proving a real problem when it comes to question setting.

Consultation Action

If you agree that having no tiering is appropriate for D&T, then please say so explicitly in your response.

Having discussed the move to a single GCSE for D&T in the first post, considered the proposed D&T content in some detail in the second and third posts and looked in detail at the proposed assessment arrangements in this post, the fifth and final post in this series will draw together all of the Consultation Actions we have suggested in the form of useable responses to the two consultations.

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DfE D&T subject content consultation: Part 2, Areas of Interest

Design and technolog GSCE subject contentThis is the third in a series of posts on the GCSE D&T Curriculum Reform Consultations that David and Torben have written together. It builds on the first post which introduced some of the thinking of the Design & Technology Association working group in justifying a single GCSE title D&T and the second post that looked in more detail at aspects of the subject consultation that the DfE is running.

This post focuses on the idea of ‘Areas of Interest’ in that subject consultation.

Areas of interest

In the second post in this series post we discussed the significance of context in motivating high quality designing and making. In this part of the subject content the proposals do to some extent offer support for the importance of context by requiring that specifications provide the opportunity for study in one of six Areas of Interest:

  • Fashion
  • Interiors and furnishings
  • Advertising and promotion
  • Consumer electronics
  • Leisure
  • Mechanical systems

It would be easy to see these areas of interest as simply the previous focus areas in disguise. This would not be in the spirit of modernization envisaged by the working group. However, some attempt has been made to avoid this possibility by providing brief descriptions of the range of products that might be designed and made when working in a particular area of interest and the use of the phrase ‘Examples may include, but are not restricted to …’ indicate the possibility of a products outside the range suggested. So much depends on the way teachers enable their pupils to learn within areas of interest and then respond effectively in response to open starting points (which we will discuss in a fourth post on the Ofqual assessment consultation) and we see this as an area in which many D&T teachers would benefit from appropriate CPD.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the areas of interest provide, in principle, a useful device to help pupils contextualize their designing and making, then do say so explicitly in your response.

Consultation Action

If you think that D&T teachers will also need CPD to help them work in a more integrated way across the traditional material areas, please also make this point when you respond.

We turn next to number of concerns we have about the Areas of Interest as proposed in the consultation. These are, firstly, that the nature of the six proposed Areas are not the same and, secondly, that the examples provided are not always suitably challenging for GCSE.

Fashion, Interiors and furnishing, Advertising and promotion and Leisure are not the same kinds of thing as Consumer electronics and Mechanical systems. The former are ‘areas of life’ (or, possibly, fields of work) that allow for a wide range of product types to emerge from the area of interest, including, importantly, those utilizing mechanical and electronic control. Consumer electronics and Mechanical systems, on the other hand, are technical disciplines that require a particular mode of functioning. We think that it would be better to identify alternative areas of interest (e.g. Exploration, Disaster relief, Waste Management, Protection, Safety….) that lend themselves to electronic and mechanical solutions but do not necessarily require them.

Of course, we very much do want more pupils to engage with the ‘technical’ aspects of D&T, especially programmable electronics. But it is not clear that trying to force this by contorting the Areas of Interest will be successful; much better to ensure that the technical content that all GCSE D&T students will have to cover is robust enough to provide a basis for them to feel confident that they can apply, say, programmable systems in any Area of Interest

Consultation Action

If you agree that it would be better if all of the Areas of Interest were areas of life (such as Exploration, Disaster relief, Waste Management, Protection, Safety etc.), rather than technical disciplines, please make this point when you respond.

It is our understanding that there will be questions on the written paper concerning all aspects of the technical principles including:

the functions of mechanical fittings and devices, power sources and discrete and programmable components and how they can be applied to products

Hence we think this should be given higher profile in the examples for all of the Areas of Interest. So, in Fashion the current text say:

Examples may include, but are not restricted to, clothing, jewellery, accessories and footwear

This might be extended to read:

Examples may include, but are not restricted to, clothing, jewellery, accessories and footwear and candidates are encouraged to consider how electronic and mechanical functions can be used to enhance such items

This would support our previous point, allowing Consumer electronics and Mechanical systems to become redundant and be replaced by Exploration etc.

Consultation Action

If you agree that it would be better if the examples in all of the Areas of Interest included reference to the use of electronic and mechanical systems, please make this point when you respond.

Clearly, from what we have said above, we would like to see Consumer electronics replaced. However, if it were to stay, we have to say that some of the examples given –

products that fulfil a practical need such as torches or light sensors

are particularly weak compared to those in the other Areas of Interest. Torches can, clearly, be very sophisticated, but the above could easily be read to suggest that a simple torch (often a KS2 project) might be a suitable GCSE project.

The reference to ‘light sensors’ is even more puzzling since it is a peculiarly specific reference to a component or sub-system in an electronic circuit rather than something that (by itself) is a product “that fulfils a practical need”.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the specific reference to “torches or light sensors” as suitable examples for a GCSE ‘Consumer electronics’ product are weak, then please say so when you respond.

Finally, it seems to us there is an information gap in the proposal to introduce Areas of Interest. There is a clear statement of intent about the broad subject content that all pupils following a GCSE in D&T will be required to know (we have discussed these in our second post in this series). But there is no clear indication of the content that might underlie each Area of Interest.

The way we interpret this is that the proposal recognises that there is a whole heap of knowledge, understanding and skills to be taught to all pupils on the grounds that these are likely to be useful whatever Area of Interest a student ultimately follows. This is the Subject Content in the proposal and it should provide an appropriate depth of study for the subject as a whole and it is this content that will be examined in the written paper. Hence teaching about materials, manufacture, functionality, critique and design in the context of the nature of the subject will be important.

This teaching should take up the bulk of Year 10, be both practical and intellectual and should involve, making, designing, designing and making and exploring technology and society.

We can then assume that pupils will commit to an Area of Interest towards the end of year 10 and that the first part of the work in this area of interest will involve exploration to identify a range of needs and wants that might be addressed through designing and making.

Then, depending on the brief that emerges from this exploration the student can audit what s/he has learned to identify what s/he already knows that is pertinent and what else s/he needs to learn in order to respond to the brief.

Students will need support in identifying what else needs to be found out about and what they need to learn and resources such as the Nuffield Design Guides would be useful.

We do think that there is insufficient consideration of the additional knowledge, understanding and skills that will be required by students when they tackle the NEA in their chosen Area of Interest. It would be very useful if the final consultation document could indicate this clearly. We suggest that it should list the strategic skills needed to identify, acquire and use additional knowledge, understanding and skills that the student needs to respond effectively to his/her brief. The NEA will then be able to assess pupils’ ability to deploy these strategic skills effectively. These skills can be the same for each Area of Interest, so that the statements under each Area of Interest can simply, as they do now, outline the scope of each Area of Interest. (We will discuss the assessment issues implied by all of this in our next post.)

Incidentally, one result of such a model is that it would help us develop the ‘T’-shaped skills profile that, it has been argued, good designers should have.

However, we are keenly aware that this is our understanding of the proposals but we’re sure that there will be many other interpretations sitting in the minds of D&T teachers reading these proposals. For example, might it be the intention that the Awarding Organisations should develop a whole pile of content to be examined for each Area of interest? We think this would be a huge mistake, but the proposals lack clarity.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the final consultation document should indicate clearly the additional knowledge, understanding and skills that will be required for the Areas of Interest, please say so in your response.

Having discussed the move to a single GCSE for D&T in the first post and considered the proposed D&T content in some detail in the second post, and the Areas of Interest in this post, the fourth post in this series will examine the proposed assessment arrangements.

 

 

Sketchbooks for D&T

The use of sketchbook is well established in art & design courses at every level – primary school, secondary school, FE and HE. Here the sketchbook is a personal account of explorations that encourage reflection and provide stimulus that ultimately lead to art & design outcomes. I and Malcolm Welch were convinced that such an approach would be pay dividends in design & technology education in the secondary school. Hence we produced a first draft of “Developing your creativity using as sketchbook” available here. It is very much a work in progress and would benefit from revision and updating both in terms of content and graphic design. So if you’re interested in using sketchbooks with your pupils and think this draft would be helpful then do please use it and develop improvements. And of course I’d be delighted to hear about the ways you use the document and any changes you made.

The DfE D&T subject content consultation

Design and technolog GSCE subject content

This is the second of a series of posts on the GCSE D&T Curriculum Reform Consultations that David and Torben have written together. It builds on the first post which introduced some of the thinking of the Design & Technology Association working group in justifying a single GCSE title D&T. This post looks in more detail at the subject consultation that the DfE is running.

Concerning the introduction

In the introduction Point 2 is weak in saying:

encouraging (as opposed to requiring) students to understand and apply the iterative design process that can be summarised as explore, create and evaluate.

Similarly the use of creativity and imagination is ‘encouraged’ as opposed to required although the requirement to:

solve real and relevant problems, considering their own and others’ needs, wants and values

is to be welcomed.

Point 3 seems to have been extracted from the National Curriculum Programme of Study. What is particularly disappointing is the omission of the justification of educational worth of the subject. This was in the submission to the DfE but for whatever reason it has been removed. We think this is an important statement as it justified teaching D&T on the grounds of cultural significance as follows:

Imagining what might exist in the future and using tools and materials to create and critically explore that future is a unique human ability, which has led to the development of successive civilizations across history. Such activity embodies some of the best of what it means to be human. Learners study design and technology because it introduces them to this field of human endeavour and empowers them to become people who see the world as a place of opportunity where they and others can, through their own thoughts and actions, improve the world in which they live. At the heart of this activity is an iterative process that can be summarised as explore, create, evaluate.

Such a justification firmly sets D&T as a subject for the general education of all young people whatever career path they might choose.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the above justification for teaching D&T should be included in the then do say so explicitly in your response and encourage your contacts to do the same.

The Introduction defines outcomes as either products or prototypes. We think this is an important distinction and one that enables a wider range of pupil responses than might be the case if the outcome was restricted to fully functioning product. Imagine a pupil dealing with Interiors and furnishings and producing a wide range of scale models, digital mock ups and samples presented in as a handling collection with instructions for interaction. This is a good example of a pupil producing prototypes.

Imagine a pupil dealing with Consumer electronics and producing a drone with the particular purpose of taking overhead pictures of traffic in a locality to provide data that could be used to devise ways of reducing accidents and congestion. This is a good example a product.

The point we make is that the interpretation of product or prototype should support pupil creativity in the spirit of modernization

Consultation Action

If you agree that thinking about outcomes in terms of being either products or prototypes is helpful, then do say so explicitly in your response and encourage your contacts to do the same.

Concerning Subject aims and learning outcomes

There is little with which to disagree here. It’s an almost “Do you like sunny days?” list but of course the devil will be in the detail of the subject content to meet these aims and outcomes and the way these are interpreted by the Awarding Organisations in the specifications they develop. But it’s a promising start.

Concerning Subject content

The introductory points (5-9) are welcome in that they focus on knowledge, understanding and skill dependent designing and making and state clearly that there are no focus area based qualifications as in the past. All qualification certificates will be entitled ‘GCSE Design & Technology’. Any specification will require pupils to complete an iterative design and make task although the knowledge, understanding and skills used here may range more widely than those that they have studied as an area of interest (see below). The subject content is then discussed in terms of Designing and making principles, Technical principles and Areas of interest. We’ll look at the first two of these in this post and examine the Areas of interest in our third post

Consultation Action

If you agree that it’s right to have a single D&T GCSE that provides the opportunity for pupils to work with a wider range of materials than previous specifications have allowed, then please say so clearly in your response.

Designing and making principles

To some extent these are the usual suspects and there is little here to alarm those competent in supporting students’ designing and making. There is however a lack of appropriate emphasis on context linked to an over emphasis on design brief. It is our view that at Key Stage 4 briefs, as such should rarely be given, but derived from contexts. The D&T Association working group put more emphasis on context as follows:

  1. understanding that all design and technological practice takes place in contexts which will inform outcomes

  2. exploring a variety of challenging contexts that have historical, social, cultural, ecological and economic relevance

  3. using insights informed by exploration of different cultures, values, ethics, whole system thinking

  4. being aware of current developments in design and technology, including new and emerging technologies, their impact on individuals, business, society and the environment, and the responsibilities of designers, engineers and technologists

  5. analysing the work of past and present professionals in this area

Some of this is picked up in the Technical principles section, but separating these from the essential prior consideration of context reduces the significance that should be given to exploring contexts before any designing as such takes place.

Consultation Action

If you agree that it’s important that pupils following a GCSE in D&T should be expected to develop briefs from contexts, then please suggest the inclusion of text similar to the above quote, that lifts the importance of context in informing briefs.

Within the designing and making principles there is an indication of support for pupil collaboration. But this appears as the statement “identify and understand client and user needs through the collection of primary (including consideration of collaborative discourse) and secondary data” and we think that this doesn’t do sufficient justice to the possibilities of pupil collaboration and that the role of collaboration needs much more emphasis.

We understand that for assessment purposes it will be essential to prevent collaboration obscuring individual performance but we believe that the role of collaboration in enhancing individual performance should be acknowledged and promoted. And it is worth noting that in many design & technology fields working as part of a team or a group as opposed to an individual is the norm.

Consultation Action

If you agree that it’s important that pupils following a GCSE in D&T should have the opportunity to collaborate then please say so clearly in your response.

A further area that we think is underplayed in the consultation document is that of expecting pupils to have a clear view of the values that underpin their designing and making – and this includes thinking about the environmental implications.

These ideas are picked up well in suggestions from the D&TA’s working party quoted above (especially in sections 2, 3 and 4).

Consultation Action

If you agree that it’s important that pupils following a GCSE in D&T should be required to consider values issues, including environmental impact, when designing and making, then please say so clearly in your response.

Finally, in this section, we have heard concerns expressed from teaching colleagues about the apparently reduced amount of making in the proposals.

We think it’s important to note that that we believe there is clear support for making in the proposals and we welcome the fact that making is explicitly linked to designing, for example in both the Introduction and the Aims and outcomes. Making also features in the Designing and making principles, in the context of pupils using “specialist tools, techniques, processes, equipment and machinery “ to make products and prototypes they have designed, noting that pupils should “select and work with appropriate materials and components in order to manufacture functioning solutions” In the Technical principles (of which more below) this is revisited strongly indicating the need for calculation and tolerances.

However, it does seem likely that those pupils who enjoy ‘just making’ and who are often less excited by the design aspects of the subject will be challenged by the proposals. To some extent this is a pedagogical problem; how can we best support this kind of pupil in engaging meaningfully with design? We think that working from contexts rather than given briefs may help, as this will mean pupils are working on design and make problems of their own choosing. Also for such pupils (and others…) we need to be clear that much design thinking may well best be done through active exploration with materials.

Reformed GCSE and A level subject content consultationHowever, the DfE is clear in the general consultation document that:

At the level of a pass (currently indicated by a grade C) there must be an increase in demand, to reflect that of high-performing jurisdictions.

If the description of a pupil as ‘enjoying just making’ is a meant as a kind way of saying ‘lower ability’ (rather than an expression of a preferred way of working) then, yes, these pupils will be challenged more by all of the new GCSEs, including D&T.

We have never wanted D&T to be seen by schools as a kind of ‘safety valve for naughty boys’; it’s an academic discipline that should stand shoulder to shoulder with all the other GCSE subjects. Nevertheless, the DfE’s strategy of attempting to raise standards by raising pass levels does seem very problematic – but we’ll leave discussion of that to another time.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the way making has been linked to designing is a positive development, then please say so clearly in your response.

Technical principles

It is in this section that most has been lost from the thinking of D&T Association working group, which spent some time exploring a wider definition of function than that which has emerged in the Technical principles. The working group identified three aspects of function that should be considered when designing:

social/cultural function

  1. identifying, understanding and meeting the needs of different stakeholders
  2. identifying the purpose of the product being designed and what it needs to do to achieve this
  3. considering how such a product might affect users, those in contact with the user and the wider society to discern whether it will enhance or detract from the quality of human life, well-being and relationships

aesthetic function

  1. ensuring that the products that they design appeal to the senses, evoke an emotional response and arouse intrigue

technical function

  1. identifying, understanding and meeting structural, power and control requirements
  2. ensuring that the form of a product is such that it maintains its integrity and meets structural performance requirements
  3. ensuring that the power source used to drive a product is appropriate and used efficiently
  4. devising mechanical, electrical and programmable systems that control output behaviour in response to a variety of inputs

Considering all three aspects of function as appropriate to the design challenge being tackled would go some way to ensuring that pupils would design products and prototypes worth realizing.

Consultation Action

If you agree that the three aspects of function described above would provide a better foundation to help pupils design products of worth than the ‘Technical principles’ in the consultation document, then please say so in your response.

Having discussed the move to a single GCSE for D&T in the first post and considered most of the proposed D&T content in some detail in this post, the third post in this series  explores the third area of proposed content; the Areas of Interest.

The GCSE D&T Curriculum Reform Consultations

This is the first of a series of posts on the GCSE D&T Curriculum Reform Consultations that David and Torben have written together.

Preamble

Design and technolog GSCE subject contentThere are currently two separate consultations open that relate to proposed changes to the GCSE in Design & Technology. The consultation from the DfE focuses on the subject content of the new GCSE (this is what we have come to know as the GCSE criteria for D&T) whereas as the consultation from Ofqual focuses on changes to the assessment arrangements.

The proposed D&T Draft GCSE subject content is to some extent the result of collaboration between the Design & Technology Association and the Awarding Organisations. The D&T Association working group consisted of Richard Green, Andy Mitchell, Richard Kimbell, Kay Stables, Bill Nicholl and David Barlex. SDesign and technolog GSCE assessmento if you find the proposal not to your taste then perhaps these are the folk to blame. However the journey from the working group to the proposal via the Awarding Organisations, the DfE and Ofqual does not necessarily reflect the entire thinking of the working group. This may be due to the natural timidity of Awarding Organisations in moving away from the status quo but we think that it is important to put the proposal into the context of ‘what might have been’ if more of the working group’s recommendations had found their way into the proposal.

Why a single GCSE for D&T? I.e. why no separate focus area GCSEs?

The feeling of the group was that having the separate material areas had always been rather artificial and the subject could offer pupils a much richer experience of designing and making if it was the norm for them to be able to draw on a wide range of materials to design and make with (the group realised this does happen in some cases but that these were the exception rather than the rule). The group believed this could make for a much richer working environment for D&T teachers.

We are pleased by the idea that embedded control is an element of the ‘Technical Principles’ for all pupils, having watched the GCSE numbers for Electronic Products and Systems sliding inexorably towards zero. Here is a real opportunity to protect this aspect of D&T – an aspect that seems to be more than ever central to understanding the products that future citizens will interact with, as more and more of these products contain embedded processors, sensing and the ability to connect to the Internet (leading to what is often called the Internet of things). It is likely that there will be significant pushback against this proposal and we want to encourage a broad lobby to keep it in place.

Consultation Action

If you agree that embedded control should be an element of the ‘Technical Principles’ for all pupils, then please explicitly say so in your response – and encourage your contacts, including those from industry, to also support this proposal by responding to the consultation.

We do think that the logic of the proposals suggests that D&T departments will need to rethink their way of working to maximise the opportunities of working across a range of materials. We think it would be a pity if the response to the ‘areas of interest’ was to simply see these as proxies for the ‘old’ material areas and just carry on as before. But we believe that once over the pain of change, teachers will find working collaboratively to be more interesting and stimulating. However this change is not without risks, which we see as follows.

Firstly Head Teachers could see D&T as a single GCSE rather than a suite and use it as an opportunity to reduce the offer for GCSE options. However, we note that within Progress 8 there are three subject slots, the ‘Open group’, in which “any GCSE can count”. This then puts D&T back in the frame as a subject that can ‘count’ in the school’s accountability measures.

Progress 8 measureThe consultation also makes the case that the new specifications will “place greater emphasis on the knowledge and understanding requirements for this subject”, which provides another basis for arguing for its importance in the curriculum.

Each department’s response to this ought to be to use the revised specifications as a lever to raise the profile of D&T as a GCSE subject with all relevant parties; governors, SLT, parents, employers….

And of course it will be essential to have a KS3 D&T curriculum that is so irresistible that pupils and their parents insist on it being available at KS4

Another major risk is that the subject gains programmable components etc. as a part of the ‘Core’ but the required teacher support to enable this to actually happen is neglected. This support needs to include both CPD and access to the right kind of equipment. We’ve seen our ICT colleagues going through a similar change as they morph into teachers of computing – supported by CAS and, critically, some government and industrial funding.

We believe it’s within the ability of the D&T community to similarly embrace and support similar modernisation – but it will require some hard work to make this happen.

Consultation Action

If you agree that D&T teachers should be supported in high quality CPD to allow them to teach the programmable components element of the ‘Technical Principles’, then please highlight this in your response – and again encourage your contacts to do the same.

The second post in this series discusses the DfE’s D&T subject content consultation and, as in this post, suggest Consultation Actions.

 

The case for food technology within D&T

This is a salutary tale with regard to curriculum politics and someone out there should write it up in detail – a series of interviews with those involved plus the email trails – a sure fire bet for the Journal of Curriculum Studies – a highly reputable journal. It is important to put the apparent fate of GCSE food technology (apparent because it is still the subject of consultation) into the broad context of the DfE’s responsibility to deal with the obesity issue. This goes back to 2007 when Foresight published Tackling Obesities – Future choices which clearly identified the problem as relating to the obesogenic environment in which we now live and gave guidance that indicated that this was a cross department problem i.e. it required coordinated and concerted action from Department of Health, Department for Education, Department for the Environment, Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills and Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The complexity of the problem is clearly defined by the systems diagram on page 84 of the report (below).

Obesity system mapSince 2007 there hasn’t to my knowledge been much in the way of headlines indicating that the obesity problem in England is being solved. Hence all the government departments listed above are still being required to show that they are making efforts to alleviate the problem. For the DfE being able to report at cross department meetings that the new National Curriculum Programme of Study for Design & Technology (a compulsory area of the curriculum) contained a special section at each key stage entitled Cooking and Nutrition more than meets this requirement. The immediate question from the chair would be “What about after Key Stage 3?” and the DfE would need an answer. Food technology is part of D&T, and one would need to ask folk at the DfE what was the reason for it not fitting the bill for dealing with the obesity crisis? Hence the working party that produced the specification guidance for GCSE D&T that is now out for consultation was instructed that it should NOT consider food as a material for D&T as food would be the province of another, different working party.

The DfE commissioned Louise Davies to lead the food qualifications at KS4 working party. It was clear that Louise did not lead the working party as a representative of the D&T Association and the Association did make recommendations as to who should represent the place of food with regard to the Association’s position. I think it is fair to say that the Association expected that the working party would recommend a set of GCSE qualifications which included food technology (as well as cooking and nutrition) and which could be aligned to the recommendations of the D&T working party. However, this turned out not to be the case. And what ever input was made to the working party (which was very much a secret squirrel affair, all members of the working party being bound to secrecy with individual contributions being kept from other contributors) the end result has been a GCSE in cooking and nutrition with food technology as a GCSE subject being totally marginalized to the point where it does not exist.

And of course at the cross department meeting regarding the obesity problem the DfE can report that there is a GCSE in cooking and nutrition which builds on the statutory requirements at KS3 and that this is the only GCSE available hence all young people with an interest in food will be channeled towards this qualification which has as one of its main intentions to equip them to choose and cook food that is healthy with regard to combating the obesity crisis. It is easy to see the potential for this report in the Reformed GCSE and A level subject content consultation, September 2014

Page 6/7
The GCSE in cooking and nutrition is a new GCSE, intended to build upon the best of previous titles such as food technology, home economics, and hospitality and catering. With its introduction there will no longer be a food element included in the design and technology GCSE. This is in response to the feedback we have received from subject experts who have worked with awarding organisations on reforming that title. They advised that a food qualification at this level should focus on ensuring students acquire a good understanding of food and nutrition together with excellent cooking skills. It was felt that this would not fit with the changes proposed for GCSE design and technology. Creating two qualifications (GCSE design and technology, and a separate GCSE in cooking and nutrition) provides students with a much richer educational experience in each subject.

Page 9/10
There are currently three qualifications which relate to food and cooking – home economics, design and technology: food technology, and hospitality and/or catering. Ofqual has identified the risks to comparability of standards presented by overlapping content in different qualifications, which could be addressed by creating a single qualification. Subject experts were concerned that retaining the food technology content within the new reformed design and technology GCSE would prevent both cooking and nutrition, and design and technology from focusing on the essential knowledge and processes needed for each subject. We are therefore introducing a new GCSE in cooking and nutrition.

This new qualification is not solely based on the previous food technology, catering or home economics content, but draws upon and expands the best aspects of all three, while also including more of the scientific knowledge underpinning the preparation and cooking of food. The purpose of the qualification is to equip students with an in depth knowledge of cooking and nutrition, as well as the practical ability to apply this knowledge when cooking. The core knowledge will enable students to choose ingredients to cook with, taking account of nutritional needs and through a detailed knowledge of cooking processes, prepare a wide range of recipes.

The qualification will encourage students to make informed decisions about a wide range of further educational opportunities and career pathways as well as to develop vital life skills that enable them to feed themselves and others affordably and nutritiously, now and later in life.

So what to do about this in the short term?

  • The response to the GCSE D&T proposal could be to lobby heavily for food to be included in D&T
  • The response to the Cooking and Nutrition proposal could be to lobby heavily for a food technology GCSE ideally within D&T

Any such lobbying will have to make the case that food technology as part of D&T a) provides the opportunity for important learning about ‘food in the world’ that is not considered in the proposed cooking and nutrition GCSE and b) in no way detracts from the essential nature of D&T.

But before we sink into a slough of despond based on a ‘consultations at this stage make no difference’ position it’s important to look in some detail at the Cooking and Nutrition GCSE proposal. The stated aim of the proposed GCSE in Cooking and Nutrition reads:

GCSE specifications in cooking and nutrition must equip students with the knowledge, understanding, and skills required to cook and apply the principles of food science, nutrition and healthy eating. They should encourage students to cook and enable them to make informed decisions about a wide range of further learning opportunities and career pathways as well as develop vital life skills that enable them to feed themselves and others affordably and nutritiously, now and later in life.

Clearly this stated aim does not mirror the designer maker capability required for a D&T food technology GCSE

The learning outcomes read:

  • demonstrate effective and safe cooking skills by planning, preparing and cooking using a variety of food commodities, cooking techniques and equipment
  • develop knowledge and understanding of the functional properties and chemical processes as well as the nutritional content of food and drinks
  • understand the relationship between diet, nutrition and health, including the physiological and psychological effects of poor diet and health
  • understand the economic, environmental, ethical, and socio-cultural influences on food availability, production processes, and diet and health choices
  • demonstrate knowledge and understanding of functional and nutritional properties, sensory qualities and microbiological food safety considerations when preparing, processing, storing, cooking and serving food
  • understand and explore a range of ingredients and processes from different culinary traditions (traditional British and international), to inspire new ideas or modify existing recipes

Much of this could sit within D&T food technology although the purpose of the learning outcomes is not framed as enabling designing and making with food although there is a nod in that direction with regard to the last bullet point “…to inspire new ideas or modify existing recipes”.

So a criticism could rest on there being no focus on designing and making as would be required for D&T food technology. The difficulty here is that the proposed Cooking and Nutrition GCSE deliberately and explicitly moves a consideration of food outside D&T so ‘no focus on designing and making’ doesn’t stand as a legitimate criticism. The Cooking and Nutrition GCSE by its own terms of reference is not required to engage candidates in designing and making. There has always been a tension within D&T food technology between teaching pupils to cook as a life skill and teaching pupils design & technology through the medium of food. This was articulated as long ago as 2006 in the Ofsted report Food technology in secondary schools

There is a fundamental and so far unresolved dichotomy between teaching about food to develop skills for living and using food as a means to teach the objectives of D&T. (Page 1)

Hence it can be argued that the Cooking and Nutrition GCSE seeks to resolve this dichotomy by explicitly avoiding those aspects required for designing and making.

If we delve a little deeper into the Cooking and Nutrition proposal we find the subject content divided into three sections

A Nutrition
B Food : Food provenance and Food choice
C Cooking and food preparation: The scientific principles underlying the preparation and cooking of food and Skill requirements: preparation and cooking techniques (including a very long list of specified skills)

There is no indication as to how this knowledge and skill will be assessed.

Food provenance contains these statements:

  • where and how foods are grown, reared, or caught and the primary and secondary stages of processing and production
  • how processing affects the sensory and nutritional properties of ingredients
  • the impact of food and food security on the environment, local and global markets and communities
  • technological developments that claim to support better health and food production, including fortification and modified foods with health benefits and the efficacy of these

These would find place in a D&T food technology GCSE to some extent. One question that arises is of course the depth to which the above features will be considered in the Cooking and Nutrition GCSE – a matter for the Awarding Organisations to decide.

Skill requirements: preparation and cooking techniques contains these statements

  • consider the influence of lifestyle and consumer choice when developing meals and recipes
  • consider the nutritional needs and food choices when creating recipes, including when making decisions about the ingredients, processes, cooking methods, and portion sizes
  • develop the ability to review and make improvements to recipes by amending them to include the most appropriate ingredients, process, cooking methods, and portion sizes
  • manage the time and cost of recipes effectively
  • use their testing and sensory evaluation skills, adjusting where needed, to improve the recipe during the preparation and cooking process
  • explain, justify and present their ideas about their chosen recipes and cooking methods to others

Clearly not focused on the design of new food products but more than a little decision making.

So given that the intention of the Cooking and Nutrition GCSE can be seen as resolving the dichotomy between teaching about food to develop skills for living and using food as a means to teach the objectives of D&T identified by Ofsted in 2006, is it really such a bad qualification? It is difficult to answer this definitively until the means of assessment is made clear. But assuming the means of assessment are appropriate and manageable …

It is important to consider the possible consequences of the disappearance of GCSE D&T food technology for the following:

  • Pupils
  • Teachers
  • The status of D&T as a subject in the school curriculum
  • School accountability measures

I’m not going to comment at the moment but I would welcome suggestions from others.

A question that must arise is what has happened (or not happened) for GCSE D&T food technology, which is one of the most popular GCSE D&T options at KS4 to become so marginalized that it can be deliberately eradicated by a DfE initiative. I believe this can be explained in terms of the development of and support for a strong food technology community of practice. That this has been severely neglected is evidenced by the number of initiatives that have been given prominence by the D&T Association in recent years. All the following received both government and industrial funding and embraced all the focus areas other than food –albeit textiles rather late in the day.

  • CAD CAM
  • Electronics in Schools
  • Electronics in Schools Strategy
  • Digital Design & Technology

The deliberate aim of these interventions was to build local communities of practice that could respond to the national agenda for modernizing D&T. This has not been the case for food technology. The only initiative that I know of is Licence to Cook and this has been severely criticized in its evaluation as being inimical with regard to food technology (See Rutland, M. Licence to cook: the death knell for food technology Design and Technology Association International Research Conference Proceedings 2008). Without a robust and articulate community of practice food technology as part of D&T has no voice and no authority, hence easily marginalized.

I know it’s fashionable in some circles not to have a plan B but I think it would be unwise to think that responding to the consultation will be successful in leading to a reinstatement of food as a material area within D&T. The question, parked for the moment, is what to do about a food technology GCSE if the lobbying is unsuccessful? What would be worth teaching about food technology that isn’t already covered to some extent by the proposed Cooking and Nutrition GCSE? Again I’d welcome comments.