Speed Designing

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Speed Designing is a teaching and learning strategy we've developed to support the delivery of controlled assessment but it can also be used to deliver other areas of learning. The strategy is best introduced at KS3 with students gradually being guided by the teacher less and less, until eventually their main role is to set the pace of the initial part of the lesson. This approach is particularly useful to help students and teachers manage the strict controlled assessment rules for the NEA. 

We've tried to describe speed designing below but it's best experienced personally as part of a CPD session. Take a look at our courses as many include speed designing activities. 

Benefits of speed designing

  • Helps to improve the pace of learning by modelling best practices in approaching sections of work along, with giving clear examples on how time can be used effectively.
  • Increases independent learning and supports students to think for themselves. 
  • If introduced at KS3 it helps students self manage their non exam assessment at GCSE and A level and reduces the amount of teacher input that is required. 
  • Its use isn’t just limited to designing, and as a time management strategy, it can be used for a range of things.
  • It is surprising how even the nosiest of groups respond well to speed designing for short bursts of time, especially when they are used to the technique. The pace of work and teacher modelled activities often mean there is little time to misbehave. The pace also means students are more focused and for many there's a real sense of achievement in a short space of time which is motivating for the rest of the lesson.
  • The pace of the work means students get less bogged down in presentation, what their friends are doing and in their mistakes. The strategy encourages risk taking and also helps to model that it’s often okay for certain types of D&T work to be in a ‘rough’ and sketchy format which can lead to increased creativity and less inhibited work.  
  • Weaker students generally benefit from the technique as it enables them to get positive results very quickly. Many teachers have therefore used it very successfully with borderline students, low ability students and as a strategy to engage boys. 

Some of the key points about Speed Designing 

  • The teacher sets the pace of task being done breaking it down into short time slots between 1 to 4 minutes (hence the name). This pace of work maintains student focus and helps give the lesson pace. This pace is continued for up to 20 minutes, depending on the activity being done (and for some activities the timing may be much shorter). The aim is often to get a basic outline of the work done in this time and to model what can be achieved.
  • During the speed designing element of the lesson students are not allowed to ask questions and must work in silence. It can be useful to liken this section of a lesson to the type of thinking and approach that is needed in an exam. 
  • The teacher models an example of the work on the board at the same time as the LL  Picture 018 edited-1 tudents are working. This helps make expectations clear and shows what can be achieved in the time slot. Where possible the teacher should model something slightly different to what the students are doing so they can’t copy. 
  • The teacher talks as they model the work but the ‘talk’ is about thinking processes, what they are doing and why in order to model best practices. This means the teacher talk is of an inspirational and reassuring nature rather than just being about giving answers. For younger year groups the teach might also anticipate the types of questions students have, and in particular suggest strategies on how the students might think around the answer (i.e. rather than the teacher just giving answers). The teacher can also use their tone of voice and pace of speaking as a way of reassuring students or to speed up or slow down the pace and to emphasise the most important elements of the work. 
  • For many activities the teacher uses Bloom’s Taxonomy, or another thinking strategy, to help scaffold learning. 
  • Quicker or more able students will progress further than the rest of the group but emphasis should be placed on getting the basics done in the initial time slot. Students then get ‘independent time’ to improve their work, ask questions, do further research (and to consider presentation if necessary although this should be limited as many students will default to this and not actually progress with learning). The students set this pace and it is useful if they set personal targets for this time. The aim is that the pace modelled previously by the teacher demonstrates to pupils what they can achieve. This independent time is essential as it allows students who are anxious about gaps in their work, and the speed of the start of the activity, to work at their own pace.
  • Self and peer assessment is a key part of the work – this encourages students to value constructive criticism and reduces their inhibitions when making mistakes. For KS3 students ‘thinking ladders’ using Bloom’s Taxonomy can be used which set out criteria students can use to peer and self assess their work and older students can use exam board criteria. The use of the ladders at KS3 helps students break down what is required to access a higher quality piece of work and this helps embed the learning so students are more independent at GCSE and A level.
  • The speed element of the strategy means that students aren’t given ‘time to think’. This is deliberate as all too often students worry more about what they perceive to be mistakes which in many cases are actually the best bits of work. The speed also prevents students from comparing their work too much to their neighbour rather than them focusing on what they are doing. It also often captures some of the student’s best ideas as creativity can be stifled by a student's desire to perfect an idea before moving onto the next one which in D&T isn’t always the best approach.  
  • Students should be discouraged from doing work in ‘rough’ as often their ‘best’ copy is   pretty much the same but prettier and lots of time has been wasted. As they grow up students are encouraged  do rough copies first and go over it but in D&T this can reduce creativity and slow down the design process. 
  • It is important students are shown work by designers that is rough, sketchy and not L pen pot 02085 erfect to show how imperfect the design process can be. It can be useful to get students to draw with fine liner drawing pens rather than pencil. This copies how a designer often works and prevents students endlessly rubbing out and repeating work. Most students are surprised how good their drawings look even if their drawing skills are weak. 
  • Presentation of pages is seen as fairly unimportant – students are encouraged to keep ideas sketchy and free flowing. Borders / titles etc. should take minutes to do and be simple yet effective. Many students like the presentation part of D&T but this should not take up much of the learning time and it is essential a balance is kept. With this in mind it can be useful to give students time at the beginning of a project to present pages so this doesn’t need to be done during the project itself. 


Things to be aware of when using the strategy

Introducing speed designing at KS3 helps students get used to it early on and increases its success. When starting to use speed designing some of the pitfalls are:

  • Speed designing takes time to get used to both for students and teachers. When students aren’t used to this way of working they can complain they feel rushed but this is generally because they are used to wasting time and being unfocused. Speed Designing forces them to work quickly which means they have to take risks, make mistakes and think on the spot which is usually out of their comfort zone. 
  • More able girls often find the strategy more difficult to get used to as they focus too much on getting things perfect before they move on. This is one of the reasons the independent time in the lesson is important. 
  • It can be difficult for the teacher not to answer questions and for them to stay focused on the pace rather than just the content of the work. This gets easier with practice and as students get used to the strategy. 
  • It is important to understand the difference between the teacher acting as the pace setter and the activity being teacher led, as it is important the latter is avoided particularly for Non Exam Assessment work. 
  • Although originally created for designing work and for coursework and controlled assessment work the strategy can be used in other areas of learning. It is, however, important not to over use it in order to maintain its impact. 

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Look at this D&T Practice article to read an article written for the D&T Association magazine that refers to the use of Speed Designing and Bloom’s Taxonomy. 

We've tried to describe speed designing above but it's best experienced personally as part of a CPD session. Take a look at our courses as many include speed designing activities.  Email julie@julieboyd.co.uk to if you would like to know which ones coming up soon will include this strategy.

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