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Primary D&T: Is It OK To Design Without Making And Vice Versa?

Primary D&T: Is It OK To Design Without Making And Vice Versa?

After posting The 4 Ps Of The Design & Technology Curriculum I got a lovely email from Torben Steeg, co-author of Design and Technology in your School: Principles for Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment. Torben raised a couple of points which prompted me to write another blog post.

Correct Terminology - Design and Technology

The first thing he challenged was my use of the phrase Design Technology instead of Design and Technology (which is what the National Curriculum has it as). It made me realise that I think over time I have just come to shorten the name of the subject because it's easier to say - not a good rationale!

Torben pointed out that the Interim report for the D&T working group (The Parks Report, 1988) had this to say:

1.6 Our use of design and technology as a unitary concept, to be spoken in one breath as it were, does not therefore embody redundancy. It is intended to emphasise the intimate connection between the two activities as well as to imply a concept which is broader than either design or technology individually and the whole of which we believe is educationally important.

I completely agree it should be called Design and Technology so I went back and edited my piece (interestingly in my free-to-download Design & Technology planning tool I had used that terminology - call me inconsistent!).

Four Kinds of Design and Technology Activity

The second point Torben raised was that of the four kinds of design and technology activity that secondary teachers accept:

  • designing and making

  • making without designing

  • designing without making

  • considering consequences

I'd like to share some thoughts on the second and third points, with regards to primary design and technology teaching.

A while ago I wrote an article for HWRK magazine entitled 'How I Would Teach… The Iterative Design Process' (you can read it here on my blog, you can visit it here although the formatting isn't great, or you can download/read the magazine in full here).

Although I think it's well worth a read in full , there are some ideas I'd like to draw out of it.

I depicted the full design and making process in two ways:

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I then posed a question:

Can teachers and children really be expected to complete that whole process in every unit of D&T work?

And my short answer:

...we don’t have to complete the whole process every time we teach a D&T unit.

With regards then to the four kinds of design and technology activity, I think schools can be reassured that in some design and technology units it is completely acceptable for pupils to make without designing and to design without making.

In the article, I ask another question:

Which parts when?

I think this is something that is down to the discretion of schools, however I'd advise that it is mapped out in the curriculum so that pupils get a good balance of desiging and making, making without designing and designing without making. Don't leave this to chance:

Being deliberate and mapping out when children will first encounter the various aspects of the iterative design process will ensure that there is consistency and progression across the D&T curriculum.

Primary D&T: Is It OK To Design Without Making And Vice Versa? - Aidan Severs Consulting Education Consultant

If you would like Aidan to work with you on developing primary D&T in your school, please get in touch via the details on this page or by making a booking at

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