Primary Design and Technology: What do teachers do?

Dawne Bell, David Wooff, Sarah Wright, Matt McLain, Mike Martin

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Design and technology makes a unique contribution to a child’s education, yet in England and Wales, the countries where the subject was first conceived, the subject faces a constant challenge to maintain itself as a subject of worth within both the primary and secondary age phase curriculum. Compounding issues surrounding its place within the curriculum, particularly in primary schools there are concerns that teachers are insufficiently trained to teach design and technology (D&TA 2015), and opportunities for teachers to undertake professional development are limited and unsupported. Whilst those in teacher education and the wider subject community have raised concerns, there is little empirical evidence available that makes clear primary teachers beliefs and perceptions in relation to the subject, and subsequently the nature of activities that are undertaken with pupils. Set within the context of education within England and Wales, this paper presents the preliminary findings from the first phase of a research project designed to establish the range of design and technology work currently undertaken in primary age phase settings. Constructivist grounded theory (Charmaz 2006) is the research approach, with qualitative and quantitative data being collected using a combination of online questionnaires and semi-structured interviews from both serving and trainee teachers from institutions across England and Wales. Findings are discussed in relation to design and technology’s purpose and value within the primary curriculum, and preliminary analysis of the data suggests there are pockets of excellent practice, but in the majority of instances reported by participants engaged in this study data suggest a restricted design and technology curriculum is in operation. Second phase work will seek to explore teacher perceptions to establish if they perceive that their personal subject knowledge has a direct impact upon the depth, breadth and quality of work undertaken in design and technology.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 12 Jul 2016
EventAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE) - Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, United Kingdom
Duration: 12 Jul 201613 Jul 2016


ConferenceAnnual Conference for Research In Education (ACRE)
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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