A is for Assessing Computing: 16 criteria and 5 considerations

7/14/2014 12:00:00 AM

A student writes a program. What are you going to assess it on? There are at least 16 criteria you could take into account. Not all of these will be apposite – it depends on what you’re teaching and who you’re teaching. Also, I’ve framed the list below in teacher language; it’s up to you to adapt it into language that is more appropriate for your students.

  • Is the program intended to address a problem? (The ‘problem’ could be: how do I get the computer to say “Hello, world!”)
  • Does it address the problem adequately? In other words, is it fit for purpose?
  • Before writing the program, did the student have to work out what the problem actually was, in terms of computational thinking and then identifying the type of program that would be required to address it? This was a point very succinctly put by one of the delegates on a course I ran recently about assessing Computing and ICT.
  • Did the student write the code from memory, a crib sheet, or trial and error? Using a crib sheet isn’t terrible in itself, unless you are testing memory. In fact, in many circumstances it’s pretty sensible.
  • Does the program work?
  • How does the student know if it works: have they tested it?
  • How  did they test it? For example, did they ask someone else to test it?
  • If it didn’t work, did they fix the problem/s?
  • How did they go about fixing the problem/s?
  • Have they kept a record of what worked, what didn’t work, and how they finally came up with a program that runs smoothly?
  • Does the program work as efficiently as it might?
  • Is it user-friendly?
  • Will it work on, or could it easily be adapted for, different platforms?
  • Does it, or could it, contravene data protection laws ( a lot of apps potentially do: it just hasn’t been tested in a court of law yet. Note the word ‘yet’).
  • Does it contravene copyright laws (eg in the form of an image used if there is a ‘splash’ screen)?
  • If the app or program has potential commercial viability, has the student identified the need to ensure her/his intellectual rights are protected? You may think I have become carried away here, but this is a serious issue. If a pupil comes up with a brilliant idea that nobody has thought of before, someone needs to make sure they don’t get ripped off. For example, don’t encourage students to enter programs for competitions unless you read the small print and are satisfied that by submitting the program they don’t lose all their rights in it.)

You can take the above list, and map it to the strands of the new Computing Programme of Study, ie computing, information technology, digital literacy and e-safety.

Whatever your criteria, 5 things are clear:

  • You have to know what they are…
  • … and so does the student….
  • … and so do any  colleagues who teach the subject with you….
  • … and so do parents, because they need to know that although (for example)  their son wrote a brilliant program from a coding point of view, it didn’t fare too well in your grading because it was impossible for anyone apart from him to work out how to use it.
  • You are not going to cover all of those criteria in one piece of work – unless it is a phenomenally long and detailed assignment!

This post was written to supplement a previous article I wrote on the subject, called A is for … Assessing ICT. It’s still worth reading that, because it makes a few additional points to the ones listed here.

Also, in the forthcoming edition of Digital Education, John Partridge discusses his approach to assessing project-based learning.

cross-posted at www.ictineducation.org

Terry Freedman is an independent educational ICT consultant with over 35 years of experience in education. He publishes the ICT in Education website and the newsletter “Digital Education."

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