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« 7 ways to make IT real: #0 Make IT unreal | Main | Computing and ICT misinformation »

7 Criteria for evaluating a computing scheme of work

Now that it’s certain that here in England we will have a computing curriculum to follow in September 2014, many people are going to be writing schemes of work. Whether you are a producer or a consumer in this regard, I think you will find the following evaluation criteria useful.

Perhaps an implied criterion of this article is: Is it fit for purpose? (c) of drawing unknownMain concepts covered?

I think this is an obvious point to make. However, I have often found it useful to state the obvious if only because, being obvious, something can be so easily overlooked. In this case, does it (explicitly) cover the Programme of Study for Computing? Fortunately, the Programme of Study is fairly minimalist, which means you can can, in my opinion, use it as the basis for quite a wide-ranging selection of concepts and topics.

Digital literacy covered?

Digital literacy may not be writ large in the new Programme of Study, but it is present nonetheless. Frankly, even if it were not, it would still need to be addressed, because to be judged ‘Outstanding’ in the provision of ICT by Ofsted, the curriculum needs to be broad and balanced. The Computing Programme of Study as it stands is neither.

Multiple layers of difficulty?

A good scheme of work will cover the material at a number of levels. It will, even if unconsciously, adopt the principle of Bruner’s spiral curriculum. This simply means that matter is revisited periodically, but at a more complex or deeper level. A good example of this is the concept of an algorithm. At its simplest, it is a procedure, like a recipe. At more complex levels, though, it will include conditional elements and sub-procedures.

Resources for particular types of pupil?

A scheme of work covers not only what is to be taught and learnt, but the resources for doing so. A good scheme of work will comprise or recommend a variety of resources. In this case, perhaps, a programming language like Scratch or (dare I suggest it?) Logo, for some quick wins in seeing the connection between the syntax of an instruction and what happens as a result. But, later, a more advanced language like Greenfoot or Python would probably be more appropriate.

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Assessment opportunities for all types of pupil?

Again, variety is key. Assessments should be designed to appeal to different kinds of pupil, and for different purposes. There are lots of ways of assessing understanding, and nothing but a set of multiple choice questions at the end of each section would not inspire confidence as far as I’m concerned.

Real world context?

I think the days of setting work like “Pretend you are running a video shop/DVD rental business/online supermarket” are over. Contexts should be both real and relevant. A decent scheme of work will not only provide such contexts, but suggest ways of coming up with your own. (I intend writing another article about this in the near future.)

Does it have gaps?

This leads me on to my final point: it should have gaps. What I mean by this is that while a good scheme of work will be self-sufficient, a really good scheme of work will provide the teacher with suggestions and the confidence for developing their own ideas. I think this is really important. The Key Stage 3 ICT Strategy may have been good from the point of view of providing ready-made lessons and resources, but I fear that one of the unintended consequences of it has been a generation of teachers who lack the confidence in their ability to come up with ideas which are not only original, but good too. Evert school is unique, and every class is unique, so it is imperative that any scheme of work does not impose a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Is this set of criteria useful? Do you have your own criteria you’d recommend? Feel free to leave a comment if you have an opinion on these matters.

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