What is it about?

This article explores two problems with the rationale for design and technology in the school curriculum. Both problems involve the way that knowledge and curriculum are viewed, especially in the current policy climate in England, which is fixated on so-called ‘powerful knowledge’. The first, problem is the focuses on the apparently weak boundaries of the subject and how knowledge is shared with and drawn from other disciplines. The second focuses on the multiple interpretations and understanding of the term ‘technology’. Together, this problems make it difficult to define the subject on the basis of fundamental knowledge and ‘timeless concepts’. Furthermore, the ambiguous nature of design and technology’s knowledge base, which is often categorised within STEM, make is difficult to pin down under the aforementioned biases. From a different perspective, design and technology also shares disciplinary boundaries with subjects categorised within the Humanities. Rather than attempt to rationalise design and technology in terms of ‘powerful knowledge’ this article takes a pragmatic stance, arguing on the basis of experience and the subject’s basis in knowledge for action.

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Why is it important?

The article is important in the current education policy context, where practical and creative subjects are experiencing unprecedented decline, in terms of examination entries. The national inspectorate, Ofsted, have recently begun to raise concerns of a curriculum narrowing on schools in England. It is our argument that the government policy and biases have contributed to this decline, which indicates the danger of ideologically driven educational reform.


In this paper, we present a position piece to challenge and address the impact of recent and current education policy in England. It is also an attempt to (re)engage the design and technology education community, in the UK and beyond, with the theorisation of the subject. Note: the image accompanying this post is meant to be deliberately provocative and does NOT represent good design and technology education (nor good tool use, for that matter!). Discerning, D&T educators, please do not be offended - unless it causes you to read article or have a constructive discussion about the nature of our subject!

Matt McLain
Liverpool John Moores University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: How technology makes us human: cultural historical roots for design and technology education, The Curriculum Journal, August 2019, Taylor & Francis,
DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2019.1649163.
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