Design Technology – New Syllabus September 2014 – Initial Views and Thoughts

When a new syllabus is developed by the IB organisation and DT subject leaders it always meets with a great deal of trepidation and worry that the changes may not be for the better? The can be no doubting the positives that come with a development and update cycle of 6/7 years – and this is especially true of the Design Technology curriculum due to the amount of change and development that happens within the world of design in such a period of time. Take for example the world of 3D additive printing and manufacture – 7 years ago these technologies did exist but the idea of a desktop reprap 3D printer available for almost anyone to buy and utilise would have been a pipe dream.

This weblog will look at and highlight some of the major changes to the guide – which must be noted is in pre-publication phase at this stage in time. I would also recommend popping onto the OCC to take part in the discussion regarding the new guide.

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Syllabus Outline Changes 

The first of the major changes is that the old syllabus had 7 core units for SL/HL and 5 additional for HL – alongside the choice of an option for both SL/HL. The advantages to this structure were that a great deal of ground and content could be covered int he world of design – and students had the choice of choosing an option. For most teachers this caused two problems however :-

  • Students did not really have the choice – as teachers if sensible controlled the option to one that they had the skills and were familiar with as managing students doing multiple options was not really feasible
  • There was simply too much content!

The new syllabus now reduces the core for SL/ HL to 6 units and the HL additional to 4 – and there are NO OPTIONS!

Of note the core units now include Ergonomics, Sustainability issues and probably most enjoyable for me – the introduction of Classic Design. Innovation and Design are still included but as one unit which seems sensible; Materials is also included but as part of a unit which links this to manufacturing. High Level units – now include innovation in greater detail and this has moved from SL – but the biggest change is that Energy and Structures have been removed and from my understanding are not anywhere on the syllabus.

Format of Syllabus and Teaching Guides

Formerly known as syllabus details has been changed considerably to reflect the IB’s strategy that all curriculum should be based around inquiry and the big concepts that connect areas of content together across disciplines. This does mean that a level of granularity has been lost in that the previous syllabus did for example give a specific definition for most terms – e.g. ‘product life cycle’ whereas the new syllabus is structured to support the curriculum planning process for the IB Diploma in the following areas :-

  • Main concepts
  • International Mindedness
  • Theory of Knowledge links
  • Links to other syllabi – e.g. Business and Management Topic 4 is mentioned when talking about innovation and design and marketing specifications
  • An overall aim and objective of what a student should understand from the unit and subtopic

As suggested this has already raised a number of discussion points on the OCC – both for and against so worth going to have a look and add your thoughts. As an IB Diploma Coordinator as well as Design Technology teacher I can fully see and appreciate these changes and believe it will help greatly with curriculum planning and bringing the subject areas together.

Assessment and Exams

  • Standard Level – as with all new subject syllabi and exams now only do two external papers (to reduce student workload which is a good thing I believe!) – and so the weighting of the IA’s and project has increased to 40%
  • Higher Level – very similar to before although obviously the Paper 3 is not on options but on the additional units.

IA’s and Major Project Assessment

Did you all like or hate the the way the IA’s and Major project were marked with not at all, partial or complete grades? How often did students manage complete – or were the majority of students always partial? Well what ever your viewpoints this has now disappeared in favour of a much more granular and specific rubric – with what looks to me like excellent clarifications of what is expected by a student. The Rubric for each criterion is out of 9 – so it looks as if this will very much be a better assessment process.

However what is interesting is for HL students two additional criterion are added – Commercial Production and Marketing Strategies. This could be a little tricky I think – but an interesting development. The nature of IA’s and Major Project and PSOW form seem very similar.

Okay well that is a very brief and quick overview of some of the changes… would be interesting to here your thoughts either as comments or through the OCC. There is much more to discuss especially around the fact that students do not have to necessarily manufacture there prototype and their is no manipulative skills marks – but that is for another blog post.

1 Comment
  • Chris Lord
    February 25, 2014

    How is the new specification better for students that want to goo into the Food industry? The old Spec had a lot of modules that were irrelevant to students with a food orientated career path, but this new spec seems to pay no regard to what is actually the largest industry in the world. Please correct me if I am wrong, but I feel that there is the need for a solely food based course within IB and this new spec has gone in the opposite direct, though it is undoubtedly better for the workshop teachers.

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