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The contribution of product analysis to fixation in students’ design and technology work

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posted on 2008-05-01, 12:11 authored by Bill Nicholl, Ros McLellan
Design and technology (D&T) educators have pointed to a ‘crisis’ in creativity within the subject. Creative cognition literature suggests lack of creativity in design work is at least partly the result of ‘fixation’ (difficulty in generating novel ideas due to imagination being ‘structured’ by pre-existing knowledge). This paper applies these ideas in the context of current practice in D&T to shed light on how students generate design ideas and how a particular teaching approach, product analysis, influences these processes. Data are reported from the six schools involved in the preliminary phase of a Gatsby-funded ongoing research and intervention project1. A number of methods including interviews with D&T teachers (N=14) and focus groups of students (N=126), lesson observations (N=10) and an analysis of documents and student work were utilised to address the question: ‘How does the use of product analysis contribute to fixation in secondary school students’ design work?’ Product analysis was found to be frequently used by teachers at different points in design and make projects, particularly during initial research work prior to the generation of design ideas and as a starting point for the generation of ideas during an idea generation lesson. Example of these different uses of product analysis are outlined, however the impact each has on students’ generation of design ideas was similar: current practice leads to fixation as thinking is constrained down a particular path. Implications for practice are noted.



  • Design

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  • D&T Association Conference Series


NICHOLL, B. and MCLELLAN, R., 2007. The contribution of product analysis to fixation in students’ design and technology work. IN: Norman, E.W.L. and Spendlove, D. (eds.). The Design and Technology Association International Research Conference 2007, University of Wolverhampton, Telford Campus, 4,5,6 July. Wellesbourne : The Design and Technology Association, pp. 71-76.



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