Assessing Primary Computing
Assessment presents particular challenges for computing and many schools have not yet addressed how to accurately assess pupil progress and provide evidence of it. Let’s see what David Brown, HMI Ofsted’s National Lead for Computing, has to say about computing in schools.
Mr Brown’s message is overwhelmingly that of outcomes with no specific advice about how to achieve them. Having taught Computing in primary schools since 2013, I have found that the time required to cover the programmes of study for Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 is one hour of computing each week for Years 1-6, coupled with cross-curricular work to practise and consolidate skills in other subjects.
Assessment can be particularly daunting for teachers of computing as traditional methods of marking and feedback are a challenge given its digital nature. A range of assessment strategies are therefore necessary, with discussion and questioning being key. To support evidence of progression, I use a variety of methods and tools. I maintain an e-Portfolio for each of my pupils on the school network where they store digital work using version numbering and dating, this allows me (and anyone else) to track the progress they have made more easily. I also update iCompute’s pupil progress trackers on a half termly basis. Feedback is face-to-face, in writing for worksheet activities and by video or online where appropriate in the form of commenting. Examples of this are with Scratch where I insert comments next to the children’s blocks of code and in Microsoft Kodu where I edit project descriptions to provide feedback and suggest next steps.
Self and peer assessment is hugely beneficial to pupils providing an opportunity to reflect on work, learn from mistakes and evaluate for improvement. Recording audio can be particularly good for these forms of assessment where projects can be described in detail in terms of their design, functionality, problem solving and potential future improvements as they are being developed and/or used. The audio can be embedded within the project and ‘hidden’ so as not to interfere or distract from the core project by programming playback to happen on a given key stroke or button press which is commented in to the code – see screenshot.
Potentially one of the most powerful tools for assessment in computing is engaging our modern digital citizens in creating screencasts – combining images, audio and text into video.
Research indicates that by making learning visual and documenting thinking through screencasting pupils more naturally engage in self-assessment.
Even when recordings are made without any intended audience and in the absence of any prompting, pupils automatically listen back to themselves, reflect, assess and adjust.
This promising tool could be used to further develop IT and digital literacy skills whilst also engaging pupils in the assessment process by editing screencasts for an intended audience with audio and creating visual effects such as captioning. They could then be uploaded to individual or class blogs, using categories and tags mapped to the appropriate strand of the National Curriculum for Computing, as evidence of learning or saved as a video file for storage on file servers either at school or in the Cloud. Similarly, teachers could use screencasts to provide audio/visual pupil feedback by recording when reviewing work. The screencasts could be cross-referenced against a project and uploaded into the pupil’s e-Portfolio. Open Broadcaster Software (OBS) is the best free screencasting software currently available.
Whilst evidence of progression and attainment can be more of a challenge for computing than for some other subjects, addressing how it can be achieved presents an excellent opportunity to rethink how we assess our pupils. We teachers can use what we learn about assessing children’s learning in technology to move our assessment strategies forward and fully embrace the advantages assessing with technology offer.