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Photo-stories from Durham: a case study on assessing design innovation

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  • Design


This 3000-word, peer-refereed international conference paper reports on research undertaken on behalf of DfES, of which the author was a research team member, to develop a system of assessment that would measure and reward design innovation. The paper traces the emergence of a unique 'photo' storyline assessment methodology and examines its impact on learners and assessors. As part of a wider research study (see R. Kimbell, S. Miller, J. Bain, R. Wright, T. Wheeler and K. Stables, 2004 entry) this single case study (sample size 30) focuses on classroom activity in a Durham secondary school. As part of a broader analysis of qualitative classroom data, photographs taken to supplement classroom observations of one group of learners were revealed as a photographic record of progression not evident for other learners. This unexpected finding led to further analysis of the photographs and learner responses to them, recorded as part of classroom observations and through learner questionnaires. These revealed the motivational benefits of the photographic record in maintaining impetus behind design development. When coding data, emerging themes included a growing sense of learner confidence and progress and evidence of the photos supporting critical moments at which learners see development of their design as simultaneously reflective and progressive. The main finding of this case study was that, when used as part of design activity structured to support innovation, the photo storyline methodology provides learners with opportunities to reflect and construct real-time narratives about their design. This assessment methodology has had a major impact on the national GCSE examination system (see output 1). The approach has also generated considerable interest with international audiences.

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