Redesigning D&T … talking … thinking … and then?

Eddie Norman

Front Cover for Redesigning D&T ... Talking ... Thinking

… investigating?

… piloting?

… exploring?

… modelling?

There are many possible responses, but … research … might be one that springs to mind, and it begs many questions. Research has been a term used to describe all kinds of investigations within D&T in schools.  

  • What kind of research?
  • Who should the researchers be?

These are important questions because they underpin discussions about what drives the generation of new knowledge and changes to practice. ‘Research > new knowledge > changes in practice’ is the top-down view and the reverse ‘changes in practice > new knowledge > research’ might be more associated with design.

Governments are prone towards the top-down perspective and probably because they like to feel they are in charge, but bridges got built long before the beginnings of stress analysis and steam engines were operating well before the conception of thermodynamics. In these situations research can be seen as building on and refining changes in practice. So I might answer … research, but I would be thinking of practitioner research and not top-down approaches.

There is also a view that ‘powerful knowledge’ is what is important and that it originates either in universities or with practitioners and is then disseminated to schools and colleges.  This presumes a particular direction of travel that at least with respect to design education might not be the case. The International Design and Technology Educational Research and Curriculum Development (IDATER) conferences that were started by the late John S Smith sought largely to capture practitioner research which was relatively plentiful, as well as help to disseminate the findings of larger research studies, although they were few in number. Some commentators perceived this to be a weakness, but it was actually the point.

I believed, as did others involved in organizing the IDATER conferences, that the origins of new knowledge could be seeded in the practice of many practitioners. The hoped for goal of ‘practitioner theory’ emerging was probably never achieved, but nevertheless was one the reasons I accepted the task of taking over the co-direction of the IDATER conferences from 1998-2001 and supported and promoted the merger of IDATER with the Design and Technology Association’s Annual Conference from 2002-2009. The relationship between universities, research and practice is actually rather more complicated than ‘one way traffic’ in my view.

There is probably a lot of talking and thinking to be done before engaging with the prospect of a step change in the nature of D&T in schools and colleges. However, if you do think that is a useful direction of travel and that research is the next step, you might choose to look at either some of the practitioner research, or some of the other research that has been conducted concerning D&T over the years. There are thousands of published research papers, and, even if you think now is not the time for significant change to the design of the D&T curriculum, you might find something useful for your current practice.

These are some links to freely accessible research:

IDATER conference books and papers (1998-2001) can be found here: Loughborough University Research Repository – Search (

The current Design and Technology Association research journal (2005 – onwards) can be found here: Design and Technology Education: an International Journal here: Design and Technology Education: an International Journal (

Previously it was known as:

The National Association for Design Education (NADE) journal was published from 1992-2002 and can be found here: Loughborough University Research Repository – Search (

There are also an open access journals based in the US The Journal of Technology Education which can be found here(1989 – onwards, Journal of Technology Education ( and The Journal of Technology Studies which can be found here (1996 – onwards, JOTS -Journal of Technology Studies | )

There are many other sources of research relating to D&T eg

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