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The introduction of practical craft skills into the Scottish technology curriculum: a new beginning or the beginning of the end? A reply to my critics

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posted on 11.06.2007, 13:29 by John R. Dakers
This follows from a paper presented at the conference last year (Dakers, 2003). The argument given in that paper suggested that the introduction of a subject which taught practical craft skills in a prescriptive manner, as is the case in Scotland, is likely to be a retrograde step. The paper made the case that the learning of a craft skill, for instrumental purposes only, reduces the pupil to the level of that of an automaton. Such a pupil will consequentially have no ownership of, or creative identity in, either the process or the end product. A major criticism of this view was that in order to master, or at least gain proficiency in a skill domain, certain necessary basic skills appropriate to that domain are an essential prior requirement. For example, if one wishes to play a musical instrument, it is first necessary to learn the playing of scales. If one wishes to manufacture a wooden pencil case, an understanding of how to operate a variety of woodworking tools, amongst other things, is a necessary prerequisite. Without prior mastery of such fundamental and basic skills, it will be impossible for a person to develop into a proficient musician or woodworker. The criticism was taken further with the argument that these fundamental skills were also a necessary prerequisite for the design or creative process. To play a musical instrument with creative flair requires not only a formidable set of psychomotor skills requisite to the instrument, but a deep knowledge and understanding of music. Equally, in order to design the ultimate wooden pencil case, handcraft skills associated with woodworking, together with knowledge and understanding of the properties and nature of wood, are essential prerequisites. This paper will seek to develop the argument and will take as its starting point the criticisms mentioned above. It will argue that it is not a necessary prerequisite to becoming proficient, or indeed creative, that fundamental psychomotor skills such as the rote learning of musical scales be undertaken. Learning, like design, is not only a messy process but also a very personal one. It will argued, moreover, that learning these skills in the manner suggested is, in fact, more likely to result in the de-motivation of the majority of pupils and a stifling of the creative process. I am weary of doing and dating The day with the thing to be done, This painful self translating To a language not of my own Give me to fashion a thing: Give me to shape and to mould; I have found out the song I can sing, I am happy, delivered, and bold. Lawrence Binyon (Published 1920)



  • Design

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  • D&T Association Conference Series



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