Since I joined Exa in October 2015, I believe I’ve supported as many teachers as in the previous 5 years with the development of GCSE Computer Science.
Through my work with exa.foundation I’ve been able to visit teachers in their schools as well as leading CPD events in regions around the country. One of the three aims of exa.foundation is to “support the outstanding teaching of Computing”. I’ve seen a variety of barriers that teachers in England face and I’ve summarised them here in 14 bullet points. I hope over the next 12 months, to continue to explore the many ways I and others may be able to support teachers to overcome these barriers.
If you can think of any I should include or expand upon, please comment below.
- New Qualifications – Although GCSE Computing has been available since 2010; 2016 brings introduction of new qualification with new assessment model/weighting, with new rules. Lack of familiarity leads to lower teacher confidence and ability to spot problems ahead.
- SLT Support – Senior Leadership colleagues who fail to comprehend the challenges you face (show them this list!). “Yes, but we’ve all got reformed GCSEs” – not like this you haven’t! As a result, teachers may be denied time or finance to facilitate attending in-service training (CPD)
- Teacher Confidence – Lack of teacher experience with CS. Teachers new to the subject and/or qualification. Those who do have a CS degree may not have used it for 5-6 years.
- Homework – Setting appropriate homework, and measuring & tracking efficacy of homework.
- Content Overload – Too much content to fit in to the contact time available, ‘specification overload’.
- Software Issues – Compatibility/availability, locked down network in school, managed service. Over-zealous network support staff and policies.
- Hardware Issues – Resourcing with the most appropriate hardware, 1:1 tablets, Chromebooks. Over-zealous network support staff and policies.
- Programming – How to best teach programming, algorithm design and problem-solving.
- Assessment – how to track, measure and assess learning progress against the Assessment Objectives.
- Resources – Embarrassment of riches – due to abundance of free, paid for, subscription resources. “Off-the-shelf lesson plans” that don’t deliver. Choosing and using the best resources.
- Differentiation – Class groups with broad range of ability, pupils have a variety of prior experiences and Computer Science backgrounds.
- Pupil Expectations – Pupils not sure what to expect, leading to misguided choices based on the understanding that the course is all theory, all programming, building computers or games.
- Lack of Diversity – Under-representation of gender, ethnic, cultural and social in CS groups, eg. in some cases leading to groups dominated by low-achieving boys which may lead to classroom management issues.
- Experience (Pupils) – Pupils’ lack of previous experience of CS, due to not having a firm foundation in KS3/KS2 a feature of other NC subjects, eg. Maths, English, Science, Geography.