Where Can I Find Project Ideas?

Return to the main Frequently Asked Questions page

Starting with the learning 

flowchart-311347  480 copy

This question is more complicated than it seems and there is no simple answer. D&T curriculum planning should go ‘beyond the project’ with a focus on the learning you're trying to cover, so it really depends on what that is. That learning also needs to be considered in the bigger picture of the rest of the key stage, along with how it fits into the wider picture across all key stages. 

It’s also worth while remembering that a pure project based curriculum should be approached with care as otherwise students just end up ‘making stuff’ rather than focusing on the bigger picture of learning. That doesn’t mean that projects aren’t valid, quite the opposite, just that the learning should be the starting point for identifying what the project might be. 

If the learning isn’t the focus when choosing a project there’s a risk that students will go from one project to another without there being any real joined up thinking and progression. Whilst obviously students are learning practical skills by doing this, considering the wider learning means the same project has even more validity and depth. The project then becomes the vehicle for the learning rather than just an isolated make task. When seen as part of a broader curriculum from KS3 to KS5 this also means that learning can be spread out into more manageable chunks, with greater opportunities for embedding learning. 

It can be tempting to identify a project first and then to fit the learning into it. Whilst this may work it can end up feeling disjointed and there’s also the temptation to stick with a project ‘because students love it’ or ‘it’s cheap’ and to lose sight of the bigger picture. Curriculum planning and delivery therefore flows better if the learning is always the starting point. 

An iterative approach

Modelling prototypingModelling on a tailors dummy

In addition, opportunities for iterative design and experimental work are just as valid an approach as projects. Indeed, iterative work when combined with a project outcome often gives the best balance. With this in mind it may be worth considering a shorter project than you might normally do to allow plenty of time for iterative work. The bonus is that where some students need extra time to finish work there’s more flexibility for this. In addition an iterative approach is excellent preparation for the new GCSE.

How to identify what the learning is

GCSE subject content

Ideally you would be working with the National Curriculum documents for each key stage to help you identify the learning. The D&T Association have provided additional information that illustrates in more detail what they feel should be taught to meet the National Curriculum Content. Click here to see links to these D&TA documents, as well as our own one page summary of the D&TA information which can be used as a curriculum review.

In addition, ideally you would also be feeding into the content for the D&T GCSE, as this is now seen as being part of a 5 year curriculum where the learning in year 7,8 & 9 is the basis for the GCSE. This would mean you might be using the GCSE Subject Content (along with the GCSE spec your students go onto when they move up to KS4) to inform your planning for what learning you might be covering. 

This doesn’t mean you should ‘teach to the test’, or that your freedom is restricted, but simply that where relevant you use this to inform your planning. For example, where the KS3 curriculum mentions the use of smart and modern materials the GCSE spec is useful to help you identify a couple of materials that you could focus on. Click here for a summary of the GCSE Subject Content document (this is the DfE document all exam boards had to use when writing the specs and it can be easier to use than the specs themselves as it is less detailed). Click here to see links to each exam board spec for even more detailed learning content references. 

Learning content linked to activities and projects

engine-308762 1280 copy

The ‘Let’s Learn’ pages on the website focus on the learning for the different elements of KS3, 4 and 5. The sections aren’t complete, and are being developed all the time, but they might help ensure you're linking to the bigger curriculum picture. There are lots of ideas for iterative design activities as well as projects in these sections so simply identify the learning you want to cover then look through that section to see if there’s anything that might be useful to you. 

In addition there’s a page that summarises a few of the project ideas across the website. This is useful if you are finding it hard to focus on the learning, especially if in the past your planning has been very project focused. Although you might start by looking at a project outcome in this section, when you follow the link you will be able to see other information that helps you put the project in the context of the learning. Note this summary page only covers a small selection of projects on the website and most are tucked away in each of the learning sections. 

Do I have to get rid of all of my projects and start again

No! When you start to plan a new project it’s a good opportunity to think differently about how you approach your planning. Many current projects can be made more effective by doing a review against the learning and then being tweaked. Whilst this is working backwards a bit, it takes into account that change has to be a gradual process as well as being manageable. 

It's often possible to make a project more exciting and up to date simply by reviewing the learning, for example by introducing a smart or modern material, or by changing a homework to include an activity that embeds this learning. Students might also be encouraged, for example, to consider users and user needs and designing for a target market (i.e. rather than them all making identical end projects), all of which is very useful as preparation for D&T GCSE.

flowchart-311347  480 copy

Get ideas on curriculum planning 

See resources linked to learning 

Return to the main Frequently Asked Questions page

Want to contact us?

© Boyd Education  2012   text, images & ideas on this website are the copyright of Julie Boyd & may not be copied or reproduced without permission.. All rights Reserved.