Nuffield Design and Technology

Paul Black, Geoffrey Harrison, David Barlex

In 1990 the National Curriculum appeared to be a major obstacle for innovative curriculum projects during the statutory years of education. However Paul Black and Geoffrey Harrison had published an influential paper In Place of Confusion (1985) which seemed to offer to bring some coherence to the large and ill-defined territory of design and technology education.

Nuffield influence on the national curriculum
The Nuffield Foundation funded a major project in 1990 in which Paul Black and Geoffrey Harrison were joined by David Barlex. Two years later, when the first National Curriculum Programmes of Study for D&T were sent back to the drawing board, the Nuffield team was in a position to feed the ideas and techniques that they had developed into the new Programme of Study. In this instance the Nuffield work provided the rationale and pedagogy for the National Curriculum.

The aim of Nuffield Design & Technology is to teach pupils the powerful process of designing; a process in which new ideas are conceived and taken from the mind's eye into the made world. It helps pupils to develop creativity and problem-solving abilities, together with hand-eye co-ordination in the precise use of tools and materials.

The team developed a pedagogy that would allow young people to design what they could make and make what they could design.

In this approach pupils develop their capabilities through completing 'capability tasks'. However, before they can rise to the challenge of a major deisgn-and-make task they have to learn the necessary intellectual and practical skills. This they do by working though a related series of 'resource tasks', each focussed on a particular skill.

The 11-16 resources
The development work for the secondary project was based in the Nuffield Curriculum Centre. This produced comprehensive sets of resources for the 11 - 16 age range, which were published by Longman.

Now that most of the resources are out of print they are being represented in a revised format to emphasise designing on the Nuffield Secondary D & T website.

Primary D & T
Once the secondary work was complete, David Barlex was joined by Jane Mitra to redevelop the Nufifeld approach for primary schools.

The pedagogy was refined with the help of school trials evaluated by Patricia Murphy of the Open University. The pattern of 'small tasks' leading to 'big tasks' has proved appealing.

All the resources are available free on the Nuffield Primary D & T website and on a CD in a pack from The Design and Technology Association.