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Stages of Learning in Design, Creativity and Technology

The VELS take account of the developmental stages of learning young people experience at school. While student learning is a continuum and different students develop at different rates, they broadly progress through three stages of learning. General statements about characteristics of learners in these three stages are available at Stages of learning.

The following statements describe ways in which these characteristics relate to learning experiences and standards in each of the three stages of learning in the DCT domain.

In DCT students develop knowledge, skills and behaviours in investigating, designing, producing, analysing and evaluating products. In the early stages of their learning they develop an awareness of the place of design and technology in their world and some basic skills and knowledge in design, production and evaluation of products. In these early stages, students are able to develop design and technology awareness in integrated learning contexts. They develop basic knowledge of materials and systems, understanding of the concept of design, and apply their knowledge and understanding to make simple products.

Students build on knowledge, skills and behaviours gained in Prep to Year 4, extending their ability to generate and communicate design ideas. They develop the motor skills and, more gradually, the strength to use an increased range of tools. They further develop the vocabulary for describing the processes in which they are engaged. Students begin to engage with, and reflect on, more challenging design briefs and work with specific materials and systems in increasingly complex production processes.

Years Prep to 4 – Laying the foundations

In Years Prep to 4, students begin to understand that people use creative and inventive thinking to help them meet human needs and wants. In DCT students are encouraged to wonder, be curious and imaginative. They explore possibilities and concepts and verbalise their thought processes.

As their awareness of their local community develops, students begin to understand the need for design and technology in the world. They ask questions and identify problems, needs and opportunities. They become familiar with design briefs as a way of posing problems and challenges, and are able to interpret and contribute to briefs. Design provides a context for engaging students in their learning. They recognise that there are processes for designing, producing and evaluating products.

They develop their knowledge of how everyday products and systems work, and how the characteristics of the materials used can influence the look and function of products. They recognise that materials and products can be reused and recycled, and consider ways in which this can happen as well as the impact that this might have on the environment.

Students acquire the vocabulary that is unique to DCT and apply it to their work. They begin to understand that there is usually more than one solution to a problem and develop skills in generating creative ideas. Finding at times that their ideas may be too complex – exceeding their planning and production ability – they learn to refine their ideas to reflect their production capability.

Students develop designs to address challenges posed, initially within familiar contexts. They communicate their design ideas in a variety of ways, including simple drawings, diagrams, annotations, lists and models, and verbally. With teacher assistance, they organise their ideas to develop simple plans for making products.

Initially, students are encouraged to explore familiar materials/ingredients and objects. Through play, and using their existing knowledge, they develop skills in manipulation and understandings about the characteristics of materials/ingredients. They observe that some products have moving parts and recognise that a variety of components enable this to happen. They explore ways in which to create movement in their own products using a range of materials, including paper, cardboard, fabrics, twines, plastics, wood, food, play dough, plasticine, as well as other recycled materials such as cartons and containers. They use a range of joining techniques including a variety of tapes and glues.

At this stage, the tools and equipment used include scissors, brushes, rulers, needles and thread, bowls, spoons and knives. Students understand the need for safety rules associated with the use of tools and equipment. As students develop their manipulative skills they are able to use a greater range of materials, tools and equipment. As their level of literacy develops, students are able to describe products and processes in more detail and discuss, explain and justify changes that they have made to plans.

Years 5 to 8 – Building breadth and depth

In Years 5 to 8 students are able to think conceptually and analytically. They become more complex thinkers who work with increasing independence when designing, planning and making products. They become aware of the impact of design and manufacturing on the wider society and the environment. They recognise that many issues can have an impact on the design of products and systems.

Design briefs become more complex and the contexts for these broaden as students develop the capacity to analyse and conceptualise ideas. While some design briefs will focus on areas that are of personal interest to students, the contexts for others might be beyond students’ immediate environment, including other communities and environments and possibly world contexts.

Students expand their vocabulary in the domain and develop a greater awareness of themselves in a technological world. They show increasing competence in applying the skills they have learnt in previous years in all dimensions of the domain.

In this stage, students develop greater spatial awareness and can represent ideas in two and three dimensions. They apply a range of design elements and principles to enhance their design ideas, and communicate design ideas in a wider variety of ways, including using more advanced drawing techniques, making models, writing lists and menus, creating concept maps and block diagrams, and using computer software. Plans for production become more detailed, with students’ increasing ability to manage time and resources.

By the end of this stage, students are proficient in the use of a range of materials, tools and equipment, have further developed fine motor skills, and have greater physical strength. This allows them to use more complex tools and equipment, including hand and power tools, and to carry out a broader range of production processes.

Students can perform simple risk assessments and make some choices about the appropriateness of tools and equipment for particular purposes. They further develop their understanding of safety issues when working with tools and equipment. Students understand what systems are and can describe in simple terms how some systems work. They begin to develop an understanding of the relationship between energy and systems.

Students further develop skills in testing and reflecting on the function and performance of their products and the processes planned and followed for production. They reflect on their thinking while working through these processes and are able to describe and justify changes made to plans and products. As they develop their ability to recognise and describe strengths and weaknesses, students become more able in suggesting appropriate modifications to improve products and processes.

Years 9 to 10 – Developing pathways

Students become discerning, discriminating and independent thinkers at this stage of their learning. As a result, they can discuss the place of design and technology in society as well as describe some of the economic and environmental benefits and implications of product and system design. They further develop critical awareness of design and technology from the perspectives of both consumer and designer.

Design briefs become more complex and challenging, and, as students seek to apply their learning beyond school, they become aware of client- and user-focused design. Students gain confidence and display autonomy and initiative in constructing design briefs. They expand their strategies for exploring ideas that inform their designs, and select appropriate strategies for specific contexts.

They broaden their range of resources for inspiration and their ideas are more varied and innovative. They are able to make informed choices about the suitability of ideas for particular purposes and circumstances.

Students build their expertise and become more specialised in their approach to DCT. They develop knowledge of a greater variety of materials and systems and are able to make decisions about the appropriateness of materials and components for particular products. They become more skilled in using and understanding specific materials and systems.

As students’ spatial awareness is more fully developed they use a range of methods for communicating design ideas, including the use of computer software where possible. They employ both two- and three-dimensional techniques and make judgments about the most effective methods for representing ideas in a given situation. They develop procedural plans to assist in the production process and continue to develop their ability to manage time and resources.

At this stage, students have well-developed fine motor skills and are able to use more complex tools and equipment. They also begin to maintain some of these. They develop further their skills in carrying out risk assessments and identifying possible safety issues. As students develop specialist skills for the technological activities they are engaged in, they become increasingly independent in their use of tools and equipment, and in their ability to make choices about the suitability of particular tools, equipment and components for particular purposes.

Through the design and technology processes and by applying evaluation criteria, students are able to examine and respect a range of perspectives and consider the value of diverse opinions about design and technology. They monitor and evaluate their products, processes and thinking and make decisions about improvements to these. They develop and apply evaluation criteria that enable them to make judgements about the effectiveness of the products and processes, justifying changes made and describing modifications and improvements.

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National Statements of Learning

The Victorian Essential Learning Standards (VELS) incorporate the opportunities to learn covered in the national Statements of Learning (www.mceetya.edu.au/mceetya/statements_of_learning,22835.html). The Statements of Learning describe essential skills, knowledge, understandings and capacities that all young Australians should have the opportunity to learn by the end of Years 3, 5, 7 and 9 in English, Mathematics, Science, Civics and Citizenship and Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The Statements of Learning were developed as a means of achieving greater national consistency in curriculum outcomes across the eight Australian states and territories. It was proposed that they be used by state and territory departments or curriculum authorities (their primary audience) to guide the future development of relevant curriculum documents. They were agreed to by all states and territories in August 2006.

During 2007, the VCAA prepared a detailed map to show how the Statements of Learning are addressed and incorporated in the VELS. In the majority of cases, the VELS learning focus statements incorporate the Statements of Learning. Some Statements of Learning are covered in more than one domain. In some cases, VELS learning focus statements have been elaborated to address elements of the Statements of Learning not previously specified. These elaborations are noted at the end of each learning focus statement.

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