Assessing capability in design and technology : the case for a minimally invasive approach

Barlex David
2007, Vol. 12, No. 2,


The approach to assessing capability in design and
technology advocated requires four features. First,
there is the requirement for tasks that are culturally
and personally authentic through which pupils can
demonstrate designerly behaviour by making design
decisions. Second, there is the requirement that the
pupils use job bags, whose contents are based on
utility, as the means of making and recording their
design decisions. Third there is the requirement that
scripted probes are used at key points in the design
task to enable pupils to divulge and record their
designerly thinking through revealing and justifying
their design decisions. Fourth, it requires teachers to
play the part of mentor and client in helping pupils
use the scripted probes effectively.
The paper is in seven parts. Part 1 briefly explores the
difficulties in defining designerly activity. Part 2
considers some of the problems in revealing
designerly activity. Part 3 considers the nature of tasks
that might be appropriate for assessment in design
and technology. Part 4 considers how designing might
be describes as a set of interrelated design decisions.
Part 5 describes how such design decisions might be
revealed and justified through the use of a series of
scripted probes. Part 6 considers the nature of the
portfolio that enables pupils to make design decisions.
In the conclusion, the paper summarises the
approach to assessment developed so far and justifies
it in terms of overcoming the problems of revealing
designerly activity and having minimum impact on the
pupils experience of designing.
While most of the examples in this paper are drawn
from the specific context of assessment in England
and Wales, the ideas and issues raised and discussed
will have relevance for all concerned with developing
authentic approaches to assessment in Technology


Assessment ; Design & technology ; Designerly behaviour ; Design decisions

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