Drawing as a tool for thought : the development of the ability to use drawing as a design tool amongst children aged 6-8 years
My research into young children's understanding of using drawing to support designing was
undertaken in a rural First School (children aged 5-9 years) across the years 1998-2002.
Since little previous research had been conducted in the field, the first phase of the research
aimed to discover how young children could use drawing to support designing, through
analysing drawings produced in Design and Technology lessons. It appeared that below age 8,
although children could record design ideas, they did not use drawing to support their design
thinking or develop their ideas towards making. Understandings gained through reading, led to
the belief that the metaphor of design drawing as both a Container and a Journey could be
used to teach younger children to use drawing as a design tool.
The second phase of the research, therefore, involved devising a Programme of four school
term's duration, for a Year 2 class (average age 6.10 at start of Programme), that embedded
the Container I Journey metaphor. These children's developing capability with design drawing
was compared at intervals with that of a parallel class who did not receive the Programme.
The evaluation of the Programme used both qualitative and quantified analysis to assess both
process and products of using drawing to support designing. The analysis instrument for the
products was based on a holistic view of the design process, placing Understanding the
Purpose of the Drawing at the centre of capability and Dimensions of Design Drawing through
which such capability were expressed in drawing as emanating from this central understanding.
Besides demonstrating the success of the Programme, the analysis showed how children adapt
their use of drawing for different activities (problem-solving or product design) and revealed the
importance of discussion whilst drawing for the development of viable design ideas.