John Backwell

Staff details

Position Lecturer in Design and Technology
Department Design
Email j.backwell (
Phone +44 (0)20 7919 7758

My research student supervision is located in the following broadly defined areas: Learning environments, learning styles and cognitive development; ICT as both a learning and a teaching tool; use and roles of non-linear mathematics to assist data modelling and analysis.

Research Interests

My research interest resides in seeking to better understand the impact the learning environment has upon cognitive skills development of young people and in turn how student / teacher perceptions influence this environment with particular reference to Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Design and Technology. Key features of this research are the outcomes that demonstrate how the information processing skills of 11 to 16 year olds may be enhanced at different points in their learning experience. I have been engaged in two strands of research in this respect both focussed upon development work within secondary schools and the agencies associated with this phase of education, including initial and in-service teacher education.

The first analyses the effectiveness of cognitive intervention methodologies as applied to teaching and learning styles, initially with Key Stage 3 students (11 to 14 yrs) and later with Key Stage 4 (15 to 16 yrs). Ten years work in this field with co-researcher, Tony Hamaker, led to the publication of the cognitive tasks and support material as an effective means of wider dissemination that doubled as the research instrument for further study. Pilot studies are currently being planned for schools in India (in collaboration with Homi Baba Institute, Mumbai) and China (The Rego International School, Tianjin) where interest has been generated.

The second strand analyses perceptions of information and communication technologies (ICT) concerning all parties involved in the learner-teacher engagement. Again, this has now become a unique longitudinal study utilising data derived by myself and co-researcher, Dominic Clare, spanning twelve years. During this period a number of national initiatives have come and gone that may have impacted upon ICT understanding and awareness in various ways. With these in mind, it has been of interest nationally and internationally to review the critical analysis of perceptual levels of teachers, Yr10 students and more recently, teacher training students (postgraduate and undergraduate). A major review of the research instrument used to collect and present findings was recently undertaken in light of emerging technologies and has presented new opportunities for comparative study that will impact upon classroom practice.




Backwell, John L. and Hamaker, Tony. 2003. Cognitive Acceleration through Technology Education (CATE). Taunton: Nigel Blagg Associates, p. 95. ISBN 1898342091

Conference or Workshop Item

Backwell, John L. and Clare, D.. 2006. 'ICTs: Teachers’ and students’ preconceptions and the implications for present and future teacher education'. In: International Conference on Multimedia & Communiction Technologies in Education (m-ICTE). Seville, Spain 2006.

Backwell, John L. and Hamaker, Tony. 2005. 'Cognitive Acceleration through Technology Education (CATE): Implications for Teacher Education'. In: EpiSTEME -1 International Conference to review research on Science, Technology and Mathematics Education. Goa, India, India.

Backwell, John L. and Hamaker, Tony. 2002. 'Case Studies: Cognitive Intervention Strategies in Technology Education at Key Stages 3 and 4'. In: DATA International Research Conference. Coventry, UK 2002.

Book Section

Backwell, John L. and Wood, John. 2011. Catalysing Network Consciousness in Leaderless Groups: A Metadesign Tool. In: , ed. Presence in the Mindfield: Art, Identity and the Technology of Transformation. Lisbon, Portugal: Artshare-Universidade de Aveiro, pp. 36-41. ISBN 978-972-789-356-0

Backwell, John L. and Wood, John. 2009. Mapping Network Consciousness: syncretizing difference to co-create a synergy-of-synergies. In: , ed. New Realities: Being Syncretic, IXth Consciousness Reframed Conference Vienna, 2008. Vienna, Austria: Springer Verlag, pp. 54-59. ISBN 978-3-211-78890-5