9 Approaches to assessing Computing and ICT–#9: Cognitive Development

The DfE recently announced the winners of its Assessment Innovation Fund: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-win-funds-to-develop-and-share-new-ways-of-assessing-pupils

The purpose of the fund was as follows:

By collecting and promoting examples of innovative approaches to assessment, we want to give schools ideas and options as they upgrade their systems in response to the removal of levels.

We are therefore asking schools and organisations to present their approaches to the Department: where needed, we can allocate funding (of up to £10,000 per unique application) to help create a simple, easy-to-use package for others schools to transfer and use in their own setting.

Each package will then be made freely available for other schools to access, download and use.
(See https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/268361/Assessment_Innovation_Fund_launch_doc.pdf )

I’ve been reporting on the winners and the descriptions of their approach. These descriptions are more like thumbnail sketches at the moment. I have used them to suggest ways in which they might be adapted for use in assessing ICT and Computing. I hope you find these suggestions useful, or at least a good starting point for your own further work.

In each case I have kept the text of the DfE’s announcement, and then added my thoughts under the heading “Applying this to Computing and ICT”.

Today: Cognitive Development.

Frank Wise School, Banbury, Oxfordshire (special school)

This school has developed and refined a series of assessments that screen the level of development of basic cognitive skills. Their developmentally progressive assessments enable teachers to establish a baseline understanding of a child’s stage of development, allowing them to plan appropriately challenging targets for future learning. This enables them to understand appropriate progression for children with atypical developmental patterns as well as to identify and address gaps in development which may result in delayed progress. The school has worked closely with local mainstream schools, a number of whom have taken on aspects of assessment to use in their own setting.

Deputy headteacher Simon Knight said:

As a special school we are particularly pleased to be involved in this exciting project and to be able to share our approach to identifying gaps in expected cognitive development. This will provide an opportunity for more children to have their individual needs identified more quickly, without necessarily waiting for the symptomatic indicators of delayed development to become apparent.

Applying this to Computing and ICT

You might think that a psychological approach would not be applicable to a subject like Computing or ICT. However, it would be interesting to see a scheme of work and assessment based on what pupils could understand and do according to their level of cognitive development. I seem to recall that some work has been done in this vein in the context of Economics education, for example.

One immediately practical aspect of this approach would be the recognition of pupils’ development in the context of e-safety, an integral element of the new Computing Programme of Study. We tend to assume that pupils over a certain age just need to be taught properly and they will stop engaging in risky online behaviour. However, researcher Nancy Willard maintains that young people are unable to take safe decisions until they are in their 20s:

Teens brains are a work in progress. During the second decade of life, the frontal lobe is undergoing significant growth and development. The frontal lobe is the portion of the brain that allows reasoned decision making.

(See Willard, N. 2011, Cyber Savvy: Supporting Safe and Responsible Internet Use; Why Teens Make Unsafe Choices Online, http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/columnists/willard/willard003.shtml)

For more detail about the school’s approach, see http://sentineluk.wordpress.com/2014/05/07/assessment-innovation-fund-frank-wise-schools-proposal/

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."