Primary school students' approaches to design activities

Year: 2002

Author: Stein, Sarah, McRobbie, Campbell, Ginns, Ian

Type of paper: Refereed paper

There is little documented evidence about the actions and the processes engaged in by novice designers of primary school age students. The study described in this paper attempts to fill that gap by presenting a graphical notation which was used to provide a picture of students' design actions. The notation, developed from an earlier version used to analyse science students' activity, and used to map the designerly thinking and action of pre-service teachers, is used to present insights into the designing actions of small groups of Year 6 students, who were involved in open-ended design and make projects. The graphical notation supported the analysis of the development of the students' designing actions and associated ideas across the period of their design projects. Some insights provided by the maps of the students' activity included the heavy reliance of students upon the concrete realities they were creating and developing as their designing took place, and the differences in the overall activity as some groups made decisions early and adhered to them, while others made many alterations along the way. The analysis of the students' actions in this way provides educators some detailed information about the nature of design processes primary school students actually use, an advantage, we suggest, over assumptions using theoretical or empirical models derived from professional designers' actions.