Assessing Computing – a 3 step guide

Assessment is huge. We frantically scrabble from one assessment point to the next, hoping and praying that our pupils have made progress. Often asking ourselves how we managed to survive the onslaught of pink and green pens and whether we have given the children enough time to reflect and respond to our marking. We all know that marking and feedback has a massive impact on progress, but often balancing this with the number of other tasks we need to complete is mind-blowing. And there's more – we must assess Computing too.

Please keep reading though, because what I will share next might just save you some time – and mean that assessment is quicker and more accurate – you might even be able to use the principles to save you some time in other subjects!

Step 1 – Ensure your skills progression/framework is in place (and you understand it).

Whether it is the Computing at School (CAS) framework, Local authority assessment models or ideas shared by existing teachers, one thing is clear – you must link your assessment to a skills progression/ framework. 

Now, this seems at first glance a rather simplistic thing to say, but it is vital in not only speeding up assessment but also ensuring that your assessment is accurate. 

Make sure that your skills progression is broken down into the main, generalised skills that you want to cover and produce long term plans that will demonstrate how the children progress through the skills – it is a good idea to have the skills explicitly included in your medium term/ unit plans too.

We break our skills down into 7 strands and each of these has 4-5 bullet points that cover our entire KS2 Computing curriculum. 

Let’s take an example – your Year 4s are completing a unit of work on using a wiki to collaborate on a piece of work. In lesson one you demonstrated the basics of what a wiki is, how it works and the positive and negatives of using a wiki. The objectives of the lesson were: 

1. Find and read an article on Wikipedia. (Key Skill – Use search engine technologies effectively)

2. Work with others to plan a project. (Key Skill – Solve problems by decomposing them in to smaller parts)

These lesson objectives are not what I am going to use for my assessment – if I do this I end up writing useless statements like ‘Well done, you managed to find and read an article on Wikipedia’. I know (because it is cross-referenced in my planning) that these objectives relate to our key skills in ‘Searching’ and ‘Problem Solving’. So that is how I am going to assess and feedback. 

I ask pupils, either verbally or in writing, to explain why they typed the words they did into the Wikipedia search box and how they have split up the tasks in their group to ensure that the task will be easier to complete. I am immediately concentrating on my key skills and assessing how well the pupils have met them.

Step 2 – Use the skills progression to assess in the short term.

Your feedback and assessment should be super focussed on the skills you want the pupils to learn, in that lesson/unit/year. The more you use the language of your key skills with the pupils the quicker they will be able to surprise you with their own assessment skills.

Not all pupils were able to tell me in the last lesson why they typed the words they did into the Wikipedia search bar, so I decide that in the next lesson I will spend 5 minutes demonstrating to the class the importance of using specific key words when searching (think teach, plan, assess cycle).

The children have decided (Or you have told them!) what their wiki will be about and you are set for the next lesson. The lesson objectives are:

1. Evaluate an article for trustworthiness. (Key Skill – Be discerning in evaluating online content.)

2. Create content for a wiki page. (Key Skill - Collect, analyse, evaluate and present information.

My assessment for this lesson will be based on verbal or written responses to questions such as, why did you use this specific book/website for information?  

Step 3 – Use your ongoing assessments to build up a picture of overall attainment.

By assessing using a key skill approach you allow your pupils (and staff) to become really familiar with a core set of statements and you also have multiple opportunities to ‘hit’ each of these assessment focuses. This eliminates the issue of generating tick lists of app/program specific ‘I can’ statements and concentrates on the bigger picture and transferable skills – remember ICT capability!?

We use this ongoing assessment of key skills to report on how ‘on-track’ pupils are to meet the expectations by the end of KS2. 

How can Switched on Computing help?

Switched on Computing comes with the set of key skills (for KS1 and KS2) already mapped into the curriculum and these provide an excellent place to begin implementing your Computing curriculum. There are also a number of self assessment sheets that can be used with the pupils to keep track of their progress.

Ben Cornford
Thomas A Becket Junior School



computing, Computing and ICT, Switched on Computing

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