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Beyond knowing how to make it work: the conceptual foundations of designing.

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posted on 2008-08-01, 09:12 authored by Gill Hope
Gilbert Ryle (1949) divided knowledge into “know that” and “know how”, which is neatly appealing to many Design & Technology educators, and like many writers on developing the curriculum, Kahney (1993) made a distinction between declarative knowledge: "verbal knowledge, that is, the kind you get from books, instructions and being told what to do." and procedural knowledge: “In order to achieve skilled performance you need to be able to translate declarative knowledge into actions. A new form of representation, known as procedural knowledge must be established.” (p.91) However, a curriculum that consists simply of information and techniques not only fails to reflect the original intentions of the members of the working party for the creation of the National Curriculum for Design & Technology (1988) but also misses the mark in terms of developing creative and inventive minds. Evidence from cognitive archaeology (e.g. Renfrew, 1994) also suggests that the symbiotic relationship between mind and hand that typifies technological action and innovation was a primary driver within human evolution. Thus designing technology is one of the defining characteristics of our species. Technology education, therefore, should not be seen simply from an instrumentalist viewpoint as a preparation for the world of work but as a preparation for full functionality in human society. The contention within this paper is that if we fill up our curriculum with declarative and procedural knowledge, without acknowledging and encouraging the unique response or the innovative idea, then we will have designed a curriculum that, however hard we try, we will never really succeed in “making it work” for many of our most creative pupils.



  • Design

Research Unit

  • D&T Association Conference Series


HOPE, G., 2008. Beyond knowing how to make it work: the conceptual foundations of designing. IN: Norman, E.W.L. and Spendlove, D. (eds.). The Design and Technology Association International Research Conference, [Loughborough University, 2-4 July]. Wellesbourne : The Design and Technology Association, pp. 11-17.



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