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Aspect 1: defining the problem
Students should be given the opportunity to explore open-ended problems. The need or opportunity for formulating a suitable design brief or research question should be identified and fully explained. A particular design context will normally offer a variety of potential problems to solve.
Although the general aim of the investigation may be given by the teacher, students must identify a focused problem for themselves. It is not sufficient for a student merely to restate the research question provided
Aspect 2: formulating a brief or research question
Having explored the design context, students will need to formulate a brief for a project or a research question for an investigation. The brief or research question needs explanation or justification. A project brief will explain the nature of the intended outcome and the target market. A research question will be justified in relation to the design context. For example, a question that states that the investigation concerns testing a range of timbers to compare their properties is not as good as one that relates the question to the appropriate selection of timbers based on their properties for a floor covering, for which the criteria for selection of a suitable timber will be explained.
Aspect 3: selecting variables or specifications
Having formulated their own brief or research question, students will select appropriate variables for an investigation or specifications for a project. Variables are factors that can be measured and/or controlled. Independent variables are those that are manipulated, and the result of this manipulation leads to the measurement of the dependent variable. A controlled variable is one that should be held constant so as not to obscure the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable.
The initial design specification for a project needs to be explained in relation to the design brief, and priorities for research and development should be stated. The specifications should be justified as a list of requirements against which ideas will be evaluated and the final outcome assessed.
Aspect 1: strategies
A variety of sources for collection of suitable data should be identified and priorities made clear. Research for the project or investigation should anticipate the collection of sufficient data so that the brief or research question can be suitably addressed. Research may take many forms depending on the design context chosen.
Aspect 2: data collection
For a design project, there should be a balance between qualitative and quantitative data collection, and between primary and secondary data. Investigations may be focused on strategies for collection of one particular category of data, usually quantitative. Data may be presented in a variety of forms, for example, tables, graphs or photographs, and so on.
Aspect 3: data processing and analysis
In a design project, research material will form the basis for generation of ideas. Analysis of data that has been suitably processed should relate the usefulness of the research material to the design brief or research question. Errors or uncertainties should be identified where appropriate, and the effect on the reliability of the data quantified. Students should show that they can take raw data, transform it and present it in a form suitable for analysis.
Aspect 1: creativity
Students should demonstrate originality in tackling the project or investigation. When addressing this criterion, teachers will need to ensure that projects and investigations have enough scope for innovation.
Aspect 2: techniques
Techniques should be chosen that are appropriate to the task and provide evidence of innovative ideas. This may be in the form of detailed drawings, models (physical and/or CAD), tests, experiments, and so on.
Aspect 3: solution
The final solution needs to be described in appropriate detail. The solution may be the result of an experiment or the use of the design process to design a product or system. For a design project, the detailing must be sufficient for the solution to be realized, with materials and manufacturing techniques made explicit. Formal drawings should be produced in an appropriate format.
Aspect 1: conclusion
The validity of the solution to the problem should be evaluated and justified. Evidence may be provided via testing of a designed product and expert appraisal or astute interpretation of data for an investigation, even if the conclusion appears contradictory to the accepted theories.
Aspect 2: procedure
The suitability of chosen strategies at each stage of the investigation or project should be assessed taking into account available resources, including time. Students should not only state weaknesses, but also indicate how significant the weaknesses are. For a design project, procedures will also relate to testing the solution in relation to the specifications stated at the planning stage and gaining user research.
Aspect 3: recommendations
Suggestions for improvements should be based on the weaknesses and limitations identified in aspect 2. Improvements may be presented in a variety of forms, such as drawings, a modified design specification, or a new set of variables. For investigations based on data collection, modifications should address issues of precision, accuracy and reproducibility of the results. The modifications proposed should be realistic and clearly described. It is not sufficient to state that more precise equipment should be used or more time allocated. Modifications for a designed prototype should consider changes to the design for scaling up production and to produce a design family of products.
Aspect 1: procedures
The procedures for practical work should be conducted in a methodical manner to aid the finishing of the final outcome. Practical work should have been planned in advance so as to show clearly the sequence of operations to be carried out. Equipment, materials and estimates of time allowance for each operation should be stated clearly if students are to be able to work to plan.
Aspect 2: use of equipment and materials
The level of guidance required will depend on the nature of the activity and experience of the students. Health and safety must be given due consideration at all times, with explicit evidence apparent in the documentation. Evidence of manipulative skills should be clear from a diary of manufacture. Photographs of the final outcome should be evident in the evaluation section of the report.
Aspect 3: techniques
A variety of techniques will be relevant to the task. Students should have made astute judgements concerning resource issues for completing the investigation or project. Materials, components and equipment must be manipulated to a standard that will allow a detailed evaluation.
(for group 4 project assessment only)
The assessment can be assisted by the use of a student self-evaluation form, but the use of such a form is not a requirement.
Excerpted from Design Technology: guide. Cardiff Wales, UK: International Baccalaureate Organisation, 2007.