The 6 Fundamental Computing Assessment Scheme Questions

Whether you decide to create your own assessment scheme from a blank sheet of paper, so to speak, use a ready-made scheme created by someone else, or do a bit of both, there are 6 questions you need to ask:

What’s the underlying rationale?

Bloom’s taxonomy? SOLO (Structured Overview of Learning Outcomes)? Something else entirely?

Knowing what the underlying rationale is means that you can be consistent when changing the scheme over time, and also makes it easier for others to understand.

What required behaviour will be ‘proof’?

A statement like:

“Knows that processors have instruction sets and that these relate to low-level instructions carried out by a computer.” (From the Progression Pathways Framework.)

is fine – but what does it mean in practice? It’s no good asking the pupils to assess themselves on this; at least, you can’t rely on that alone. They need to do or say something that will prove that they understand it.

What are appropriate activities or questions?

So that brings us on to the next issue: you need to devise activities that will enable the pupils to do or say things that will prove that they understand it – or that they don’t.

What about validity?

And that in turn brings us on to the next critical question: are your activities or questions valid, ie do they measure what they purport to measure? In other words, do they really test IT skills, knowledge or understanding, as opposed to, say, linguistic or mathematical skills, or even common-sense?

How will you know if a pupil has ‘got it’?

In other words, how will you know when a pupil is displaying the behaviour that you have decided would prove they have the understanding you’re looking for?

You may need to observe them. You may need to ensure that they do the work on their own, not as part of a group. You may need to ask them to solve an unfamiliar problem using the tools of the trade that you hope they have acquired.

How will you all agree?

Finally, how will you and your colleagues agree on what proof of understanding looks like? You may need to create or find exemplars of work to illustrate it. (In my experience, devising lists of criteria, perhaps in the form of a rubric, often leads to more questions than it answers.)

Incidentally, the need for consistency between different people also applies to yourself: how can you ensure that a grade you give a piece of work next week will be the same as the grade you gave it today?

The conclusion to all this is, of course, that you still have to do a lot of thinking for yourself. You can’t just take an assessment scheme off the shelf and then tick that particular line on your to-do list.

In the assessment training I do I try to give delegates the information by which they can help to answer these questions for themselves.

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