Author: Jan Harrison
Guidance from the Naace Assessment Special Interest Group.

Assessment resources shared by Naace members can be found here:

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Assessment is an integral part of the curriculum and cannot be separated from it - hence a school approach to assessment will need to be tailored to match their approach to the curriculum.  Assessment should inform next steps for pupils, whether that is formative or summative.

The nature of Computing as a subject is very practical.  Hands on learning in embedded contexts which provide opportunities for the explicit development of knowledge skills and understanding can bring its own challenges for the assessment of what pupils have learnt in Computing.  Sometimes it is difficult to separate out the learning in Computing from the learning that has happened in the subject that provides the context. Or it can be difficult to separate out the learning of individual pupils who have worked collaboratively on a project.  However, the context for learning is incredibly important. Formative assessment should be in those contexts where Computing has a clear purpose and  where knowledge, skills, understanding and critical analysis are developed explicitly and intentionally, rather than in a context where pupils are assumed to be learning by osmosis simply because they are using technology. Contexts in primary and secondary schools will differ somewhat, as opportunities for extended cross-curricular projects are often taken at primary but pose different challenges within a secondary curriculum.

Summative assessment will no longer include levels and the programme of study describes what pupils should be able to do by the end of each key stage. It is anticipated that pupils will build a portfolio of evidence of work throughout a key stage that demonstrates their learning in each of those bullet points.  Some evidence may relate to more than one bullet point in the programme of study and some bullet points will have multiple pieces of evidence.  Naace have been working closely with TLM in the development of more formal qualifications in Computing, and further information can be found here.
Formative assessment, or assessment for learning, will use many of the techniques common to teaching across other areas of the curriculum and the guidance from the Naace assessment panel focuses on the practicalities of assessment, especially for areas of the subject, such as programming, where many teachers have much less experience of teaching, learning and approaches to formative assessment.
It is not always helpful to use checklists when evaluating a piece of Computing work.  Getting an overall picture of piece of work is more akin to looking at the overall impact of a piece of writing. In Computing, work that demonstrates a higher level of knowledge, skills and understanding is both effective AND efficient. There may be able pupils who find very creative solutions to the problem they are working on that do not fit the pattern expected by a class teacher. Assessing their understanding is often most effectively done through effective questioning.   It is important to remember that effective teaching uses a facilitative “guide on the side” approach rather than the “sage on the stage”. So as teachers who may be developing their own subject knowledge and confidence seek to recognise, assess and provide next steps for learning when they are possibly at the upper limits of their own knowledge, skills and understanding, approaches to assessment used in other areas of the curriculum are relevant for Computing, such as using self-and peer-assessment so pupils are appropriately assessed and challenged to develop their learning further.
Open-ended questioning techniques or "technical interviews" encourage pupils to explain and justify their approaches to solving a problem. Technical interviews/conferences may be between:

  • a pupil and teacher
  • a pupil and their peer(s)
  • a pupil and an expert from outside the class (as mediated and facilitated by the teacher)
Possible questioning/discussion approaches: 
  • “Compare and contrast”
  • What have you done?
  • Why have you done it?
  • Why have you chosen this way?
  • What other way could you have done this?
  • How could you improve what you have done?
 Pupils can be taught how to give constructive and meaningful feedback - this should be modelled by the teacher, as can the culture of sharing that computing enables/benefits from.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the lesson, get children up to explain, “stop and share”/mini plenaries throughout lessons support learning and formative assessment.
Online communities, such as the Scratch or Kodu communities or other open source communities, provide a rich source of inspiration and shared products such as programs.  These can be a useful starting point for pupils finding ways to achieve an end goal, and they can also be a useful place for those who need feedback from people who are knowledgeable about coding using that particular tool. Any use of such communities by teachers should be approached in a careful and considered way that promotes safe and responsible use.  For example, names of pupils/schools would need to be protected.  Support forums, such as Naace Talk Lists, should be seen as a helpful resource for teachers seeking advice about challenging pupils in areas of the subject they feel less confident about. 
"Mistakes" in programming are an important part the learning process, often resulting in "bugs" that mean a program doesn't do what is expected.  Part of the curriculum involves developing skills in "debugging" - or finding these "mistakes" and correcting them.  Breaking problems down into different parts is "decomposition", a problem solving technique that develops computational thinking. Formative assessment should not just focus on the product, such as a game that has been programmed, but on the way that debugging and decomposition have been used. 
As pupils build evidence towards the end of key stage goals, it may be helpful to distinguish between the different levels of learning that are taking place within a task.  Bloom's taxonomy, or Bloom's digital taxonomy, can provide a framework for evaluating these levels of learning. Other approaches include the use of "I can" statements, developed by the school or taken from a commercial scheme - in which case it is often helpful to group these statements into "emergent" and "extended" skills.  Others have felt it appropriate to keep a system of "levels" that teachers are comfortable with, adapting it and adding in their own additional statements - though it is worth remembering that the government have scrapped levels and their descriptors and will not be replacing them, and have made it clear that schools must make their own decisions about formative assessment.    



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Guidance from the Naace Assessment Special Interest Group.

Assessment resources shared by Naace members can be found here: