Author Archives: Carrie Anne Philbin

Our approach to developing progression for teaching computing

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Part of our work in the consortium behind the National Centre for Computing Education (NCCE) is to produce free classroom resources for teachers to deliver the Computing curriculum to students aged 5–16 in England. Our Director of Educator Support Carrie Anne Philbin describes how we define and represent progression in these resources.

For our work to develop a complete bank of free teaching resources that help teachers deliver the Computing curriculum in England, we knew that a strong progression framework is absolutely crucial. A progression framework is the backbone of any subject curriculum: it defines the sequence in which students learn, noting where core understanding of a topic is established in order to progress.

What’s the best approach to present progression?

We studied a lot of progression frameworks, examination specifications, and even some research papers. What we found is that there are two quite different ways of presenting progression that show what should be taught and when it should be taught, as well as information on how or why concepts should be taught.

Listing is one option

Firstly, there is the approach of creating a categorisation of skills and concepts into a list or table. Sequencing is shown by having objectives listed by Key Stage, year group, or even by learners’ age. Examples of this approach include the CAS computing progression pathways and the Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Curriculum Framework. They are essentially lists of required knowledge that’s bundled by theme.

Mapping trajectories is another approach

Another approach is to use a map of possible trajectories through learning waypoints and importantly how they connect to each other. This approach highlights where prerequisite knowledge needs to be mastered before students can move on, as well as the dependent knowledge contained in other nodes that need to be mastered in order to progress.

Cambridge Mathematics are leading the way in “developing a flexible and interconnected digital Framework to help reimagine mathematics education 3-19”. We’ve been lucky enough to learn from their work, which has helped us to create learning graphs.

We develop learning graphs

For our free classroom resources, we organise computing content (concepts, knowledge, skills, and objectives) into interconnected networks we call learning graphs. We found that nodes often form clusters corresponding to specific themes, and we can connect them if they represent two adjacent waypoints in the learning process. Depending on the level of abstraction, the nodes in a learning graph contain anything ranging from the contents of a curriculum strand across an entire Key Stage, to the learning objectives of a six-lesson unit.

The learning graph for the Year 9 unit Representations: going audiovisual

The learning graph for the Year 9 unit ‘Representations: going audiovisual’. Click to embiggen.

Initially, the graphs we produce are in a fluid state: they uncover the structure of the content and the possible journeys through it, without being bound to a specific teaching pathway. As we develop the content further, the graphs eventually reach a solid state, where the nodes are arranged to reflect our suggestions on the order in which teachers could actually deliver the content.

Learning graphs are doubly useful

We believe that learning graphs are useful to teachers on a whole new level: they directly inform lesson planning, but they also add value by showing opportunities to assess understanding at landmark waypoints in a lesson or unit. By checking that students are grasping the concepts, teachers are able to think more about how they are teaching and can revisit knowledge that perhaps didn’t land with learners the first time.
Woman teacher and female students at a computer

We need teachers’ feedback

All progression frameworks are subjective, and because so far there’s only little research into computing education, we rely on teachers’ experience of combining the ‘what’ we teach and ‘how’ to teach it in order to help inform this work. If you’ve not taken a look at our learning graphs for the NCCE Resource Repository, access them via teachcomputing.org/resources and let us know your thoughts via resourcesfeedback@raspberrypi.org.

A version of this article will be part of the upcoming issue of Hello World, our free magazine for computing educators, launching on 23 March. Follow Hello World on Twitter for updates!

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Hello World Issue 4: Professional Development

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Another new year brings with it thoughts of setting goals and targets. Thankfully, there is a new issue of Hello World packed with practical advise to set you on the road to success.

Hello World is our magazine about computing and digital making for educators, and it’s a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing at School, which is part of the British Computing Society.

Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS

In issue 4, our international panel of educators and experts recommends approaches to continuing professional development in computer science education.

Approaches to professional development, and much more

With recommendations for more professional development in the Royal Society’s report, and government funding to support this, our cover feature explores some successful approaches. In addition, the issue is packed with other great resources, guides, features, and lesson plans to support educators.

Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS Hello World 4 Professional Development Raspberry Pi CAS

Highlights include:

  • The Royal Society: After the Reboot — learn about the latest report and its findings about computing education
  • The Cyber Games — a new programme looking for the next generation of security experts
  • Engaging Students with Drones
  • Digital Literacy: Lost in Translation?
  • Object-oriented Coding with Python

Get your copy of Hello World 4

Hello World is available as a free Creative Commons download for anyone around the world who is interested in computer science and digital making education. You can get the latest issue as a PDF file straight from the Hello World website.

Thanks to the very generous sponsorship of BT, we are able to offer free print copies of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. It’s for teachers, Code Club volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. So remember to subscribe to have your free print magazine posted directly to your home — 6000 educators have already signed up to receive theirs!

Could you write for Hello World?

By sharing your knowledge and experience of working with young people to learn about computing, computer science, and digital making in Hello World, you will help inspire others to get involved. You will also help bring the power of digital making to more and more educators and learners.

The computing education community is full of people who lend their experience to help colleagues. Contributing to Hello World is a great way to take an active part in this supportive community, and you’ll be adding to a body of free, open-source learning resources that are available for anyone to use, adapt, and share. It’s also a tremendous platform to broadcast your work: Hello World digital versions alone have been downloaded more than 50000 times!

Wherever you are in the world, get in touch with us by emailing our editorial team about your article idea.

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