Learning to Teach Design and Technology

The 4th edition of Learning to Teach Design and Technology in the Secondary School will give you a vision of what design and technology is and could be.

This new edition builds on the previous three editions that were edited by Gwyneth Owen-Jackson. Aimed at student teachers, although it will be useful to newly qualified teachers and teachers in school who are mentoring students. We hope that those who read this book will gain a deeper sense of their own identity as a design and technology teacher.

Resources to accompany the book

Videos and webinar

Videos are available for chapters 12, 13 and 14. These are aimed at student teachers but can be used by ITE colleagues.

If you are a student teacher, join Sarah, Matt and Alison on Tuesday 1st December at 7.30pm (GMT) for a conversation about lesson planning, pedagogy and progression in D&T.

PowerPoint Presentations

These are available to accompany 10 of the chapters.

Book outline and abstracts

Part 1 Design and technology in education
Chapter 1 Design and technology in the Secondary School

This chapter considers the development of design and technology, its nature and its purpose in the school curriculum. Different definitions of design and technology are explored, as well as how it is defined in different countries. The history of design and technology is presented for two reasons; first how the subject came to be a single subject called ‘design and technology’ and second to show how the subject’s history continues to influence the curriculum and how it is taught in schools. The second part of the chapter discusses some of the more recent developments that are, and might be, affecting the nature of design and technology. The aim of the chapter is to help you develop your critical understanding of what you are teaching and why.

Chapter 2 Design and technology in the primary school

Design and technology was introduced into the primary curriculum in the UK in the 1990s as a new subject area. This chapter clarifies the nature, value and place in the curriculum of primary design and technology, before describing a variety of ways of planning and teaching the subject. The role of a design and technology curriculum leader is explained; and challenges that face the teaching of the subject are outlined. Finally the issue of bridging the gap between primary and secondary is explored. Those studying to be a secondary design and technology teacher will gain an understanding of primary practice, crucial to building skills and knowledge linked to pupils’ previous experiences

Part 2 Design and technology curriculum
Chapter 3 Designing in design and technology

Design underpins much of the work that is done in design and technology and is a fundamental skill covered in the effective teaching of the subject. Successful designing involves skills, knowledge and understanding all working together to result in the production of a tangible product or prototype. The process inevitably involves technologies that are constantly evolving but the process of design itself remains relatively unchanged. It is the solving of problems or meeting needs in order to, as Richard Seymour put it, ‘make life better for people’.

No two students are alike and there is no one design strategy that will work effectively for all students. It is important that you are confident in your knowledge of design in order to support students in the numerous individual approaches they will take to addressing design problems and issues. This chapter will help you to better understand what design is by looking at various design processes and stages of design. It will also help you to use a range of design strategies in your teaching and to help you think about how you can improve your own knowledge, skills and understanding of design.

Chapter 4 Teaching design communication skills

The purpose of this chapter is to analyse what is meant by design communication and how new teachers support pupils to use a variety of methods in communicating their design thinking in appropriate ways. There are many communication methods available to a teacher, which should not limited to only sketching or relying on the prosaic production of three ‘design ideas’ before drawing a ‘final design’. Therefore, this chapter helps to identify what communication methods are available, what skills trainee teachers bring to their teaching, how to develop those skills and critique the ways pupils communicate their designing in schools. Expectations from subject frameworks and examination specifications are also considered. Whether it be drawing, modelling, or pupils talking about their design ideas, this chapter challenges student teachers to treat design communication as a literacy; one that requires teaching and practicing for all new teachers and their pupils to boost confidence and gain new skills in communicating design thinking.

Chapter 5 Preparing to teach Materials Technology

This chapter discusses the properties of a range of materials commonly used in the teaching of Design and Technology in secondary schools. These include woods, polymers, metals, composites and smart materials. Each material is considered in terms of source, possible uses and their positive and negative impacts. This chapter examines the tools and processes associated with using different materials to produce final outcomes.

This chapter also considers the detail and depth of knowledge required at secondary school level and makes a number of suggestions about how to approach the teaching of Materials Technology. There is also a brief discussion on the assessment of Material Technology at secondary school level. Finally, there are suggested resources that would be very useful to a student teacher to help them become more familiar with the range of materials available to designers and manufactures.

Chapter 6 Preparing to teach textiles

Textiles taught as part of the design and technology curriculum focuses on the use of fibres and fabrics, sometimes with other materials, to solve a specific problem for an identified end use. The chapter ‘Preparing to Teach Textiles’ looks at how a knowledge of materials, manufacturing processes, designing and the production of functional items contribute to a curriculum area offering opportunities for creativity, innovation and solutions to real problems. This chapter looks at teaching textiles within the design and technology curriculum at lower secondary and examination level exploring the knowledge and skills required to teach the subject. It discusses approaches to design and making as well as providing examples of the technical knowledge required to teach the subject alongside teaching ideas and approaches.

Chapter 7 Preparing to teach electronics and control technologies

This chapter outlines the key content for electronics, systems and control teaching to support design and technology activity in the secondary school at lower secondary and examination level. The chapter explores the technologies that enable us to build interaction, intelligence and autonomy into products and environments and the knowledge needed in order to prepare to teach this. The chapter covers the systems approach, considering the input, process and output components that allow the building of electronic circuits. Starting with systems thinking, how this is applied to electronics and then moving to the integration of electronic and mechanical systems, it also considers some issues encountered when interfacing between different systems and embedding them in products and environments including using microcontrollers and robotics.

Chapter 8 Preparing to teach food within the secondary school curriculum

This chapter aims to help food teachers understand and take into account the range of issues involved in the successful teaching of food within the lower, upper and post 16 secondary school curriculum and also be aware of food studies across the school. It includes developing an understanding of the concept of designing and making with food in design and technology and acquiring the technical knowledge and skills required for planning effective food teaching and scientific experimental food activities in the classroom. Advice is provided on how food teachers can audit their subject knowledge and skills to understand and apply the range of teaching strategies and approaches that can be used effectively when teaching food in the secondary school curriculum.

Chapter 9 Teaching about disruption: a key feature of new and emerging technologies

It is widely accepted across several different jurisdictions that an important function of technology education is to develop technological perspective. That is, providing students with insight into “how technology works” enabling a constructively critical view of technology and enabling consideration of how technology might be used to provide products and systems that help create the sort of society in which pupils wish to live. This chapter explores technological perspective through examination of disruptive technologies and identifies some key features of disruption. It suggests nine disruptive technologies suitable for consideration in the secondary school curriculum and links these suggestions to curriculum requirements in England, Scotland, Wales, New Zealand and the USA. It describes a disruptive technology from the past, Henry Ford’s mass production system, and considers the way in which additive manufacture, artificial intelligence and robotics might interact with and influence what happens in the context of transport. It describes briefly some of the teaching strategies that can be used to help secondary pupils think about disruptive technologies. Finally, it considers a bigger picture of disruption involving three features, incidental disruption, intentional disruption and cultural disruption.

Chapter 10 The role of critiquing in design and technology education

In a world of increasingly complex technological entanglements and deep environmental concerns education is challenged as how best to prepare pupils for their lives as global citizens. As an invaluable school subject Design and Technology is ever adapting within both a crowded curriculum and a world facing immense change. Given such contexts, how can we best support our pupils, the subject and society at large?

This chapter describes the importance and value of critiquing as a key trait of a rich D&T education.  It is one thing to design and create products, processes and systems but there is an ever-present need to question (in multiple ways) our ways of working with, and our ways of existing with, technologies. Critiquing facilitates such questioning in multiple ways – prior to, during, and after designing and creating in the classroom (at all steps of a project’s execution); within one’s mind, with peers and with those beyond school (through reflection and discussion); and as a skill worth developing and as a disposition worth nurturing.

The chapter includes: a range of perspectives to help embed critiquing in one’s practice; models of D&T curriculum that articulate critiquing; explorations of the relationship and differences between designing and critiquing; aspects of the pedagogy of critiquing; prompts for developing pupil discussion and dialogue around designerly acts and technological creations; and, some sample critiquing games.

Chapter 11 Health and Safety in Design and Technology

This chapter discusses the nature of health and safety when teaching design and technology lessons. An outline of the legal requirements is given, as well as looking at the most common requirements for safe lessons in each of the main materials areas. A range of practical suggestions is given, which will enable the new design and technology teacher to quickly establish effective routines, while widening awareness of fundamental safety requirements. Wider health and safety issues such as safeguarding, e-safety and inclusion for students with additional needs are also presented. The chapter offers a practical guide to anyone starting to teach in a design and technology department, from an experienced teacher’s point of view.

Part 3 Teaching design and technology
Chapter 12 Planning lessons in design and technology

Lesson planning is a significant part of any teachers practice. Sometimes, student teachers view the activity of lesson planning as a technical process, done alongside other aspects of their course. This is not the viewpoint of this chapter. This chapter aims to teach student teachers about the knowledge-based practice of lesson planning and how they might develop expertise in this practice throughout their career.

This chapter has three sections. First, the purpose of individual lesson planning is explained, then the eight elements of lesson planning are described, and the final section includes a worked example of planning a lesson. Student teachers need to read this chapter to develop their knowledge and understanding of lesson planning traditions and principles. The chapter will explain why they are essential and how they can become part of a student design and technology teacher’s daily practice.

Chapter 13 Key pedagogies

This chapter outlines key pedagogical approaches in design and technology. Exploring the transformative nature of the subject and the fundamental activities of ideation, realisation and critique, it identifies four signature pedagogies, designing and making, mainly making, mainly designing and exploring technology and society. The chapter encourages student teachers to critically engage with a range of pedagogical approaches, from demonstration to open-ended design activities, considering the potentially expansive or restrictive nature and impact of their choices. It considers the benefits and limitations of approaches to teaching whole classes, groups and individuals, challenging preconceptions and the use of a limited range of approaches. In addition, the implications for managing the design and technology classroom are explored, including extended projects and the challenges of supporting individuals designing, making and evaluating solutions to design problems. The chapter is underpinned by theory, including direct instruction and scaffolding, asserting that design and technology knowledge (and therefore pedagogy) is action-orientated.

Chapter 14 Planning for progression in design and technology

Pupil progression should be addressed at every stage of planning: lesson plans (short term), units of work (medium term) and departmental plans that are informed by national curriculum frameworks or examination guidelines and usual cover one or more school years (long term). The elements of planning for progression are described in this chapter.

The chapter begins by defining design and technology capability, which is generally recognised as been the centre of all learning in design and technology, where capability is a sum of the parts of a pupils’ experiences and learning, rather than the atomisation of making, designing, researching, and planning. Using design and technology capability as a starting point, the second section explores two levels of planning: medium- and long-term planning. In the final section, the focus shifts to the needs, motivations and characteristics of individual pupils and how these factors might influence pupils’ learning. Whilst acknowledging that some of these influences are beyond your control, the idea is that by bringing them to the fore they can be considered, and where appropriate, redressed through planning for progression.

Chapter 15 Assessing design and technology

This chapter considers how assessment is central to planning, teaching, learning and evaluation. All these aspects are interdependent and contribute towards the holistic and cyclical process of learning, so assessment should not be considered in isolation. The process of assessing helps teachers make judgements of what to teach, and whether pupils are developing, consolidating or secure in their understanding and their skills. We review the terminology associated with assessment, what is and how it is assessed in design and technology, who is involved in the processes of assessment, summative assessment procedures in design and technology and finally recording and communicating assessments.

Chapter 16 Developing links with other subjects

Design and technology is a distinct subject in its own right but also incorporates the knowledge from all of the other subjects. Through developing cross-curricular links between design and technology and other subjects, pupils are able to see the context of what they are learning which provides a purpose to the learning, which in turn becomes embedded. This chapter demonstrates the wealth of opportunities that are available for cross-curricular links through practical advice and provides the opportunity to reflect on the readers current practice. Consideration is given to the core subjects, option subjects and to the wider school curriculum, giving suggestions for links suitable for different levels of expertise and time scales.

Part 4 Developing your design and technology teaching and career
Chapter 17 Values in Design and Technology

Working with pupils undertaking design and technological activities is highly engaging but it must also contribute to pupils’ general education about the world we live in and the choices we make as technology becomes even more integrated into our daily lives. In making the case for engaging pupils in decision making that impacts on what they make and how they make it, a discussion of values also brings into focus our personal motivation for teaching and the role we take in supporting their learning. This chapter focuses on the place values take in the design and technology curriculum and pedagogy. The chapter aims to provoke thinking and question existing practice in a critical way that enable those entering the profession, that is student teachers, to improve upon pupils’ experience of the subject.

Chapter 18 Transitions after Secondary design and technology

The design and technology journey does not always finish at the age of 16 when compulsory education often ends. Within this chapter, you will discover both academic and vocational qualifications pupils could consider post-16 and the range of skills associated with each qualification set. With the transition after secondary education opening up a range of potential avenues for pupils to follow, you will explore some of the different educational settings available to pupils and how best to advise pupils in their journey. This chapter provides information that will help student teachers understand the routes and educational settings their pupils can progress to post-16.

Chapter 19 Your professional development

This chapter will provide you with practical guidance to help you prepare for your first teaching post, the first few years of teaching and looking forward at your career. The first part of this chapter is focused on preparing and applying for your first teaching post and being successful in your application and at interview, as well as identifying opportunities for further development in your first few years. The second part looks further beyond your first few years and at continual professional development opportunities and career progression.

Throughout this chapter you will be introduced to strategies that will enable you to identify your goals and influence your own career and professional development.

Chapter 20 Using and producing design and technology education research

This chapter sets out to inform and encourage design and technology teachers to carry out small-scale research studies to benefit them both personally and professionally by providing them with relevant knowledge and information to support such activities. It begins by explaining the rationale for why research should form part of every teacher’s professional development. It also provides an introduction to existing design and technology research and other research in wider but appropriate fields and details action research and the cycle of inquiry involved. It also describes information on how to plan such small-scale research studies in design and technology classrooms.

A section on why teachers should then go on to publish their research is presented including a description of some key journals and conferences in the field of design and technology that can support the development of their research. The penultimate section of the chapter provides details of two existing examples from design and technology teachers who have carried out and successfully published their own research, with the intention of encouraging the reader to believe that carrying out and publishing research is not outside their capability. The summary then highlights the key messages provided in the chapter.


Want to keep up to date with Alison’s D&T projects?

Each month I send out a digest with an update on my D&T projects and research