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EdExcel NEA Computer Science

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by Dhesketh, Feb 15, 2018.

  1. Dhesketh

    Dhesketh New commenter


    To what extent are you getting students to complete this coursework that counts for nothing?

    What I mean by that is, a student could in theory get 0 even if they did this for real and the coursework did get marked.

    So now surely we could all aim for the bottom mark band and just submit after 20 hours of trying?

    I personally think it is wasting my time when I should be doing exam revision!

    What are your views on this massive mess up?

  2. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter

    Perhaps the idea is that without actually 'having a go' through the NEA task, it's a bit like teaching someone the theory of how to weld, but never actually testing whether they can put the theory into practice, and produce a satisfactory weld ?
  3. Dhesketh

    Dhesketh New commenter

    I would agree with that if you didn't challenge or apply any practical to your theory teaching e.g. getting students to code and discuss the constructs and their uses. Or getting students to practically build networks and discuss the advantages and disadvantages.

    However, coursework is laborious and now it is not marked it has no reward. Coupled with such a lengthy and detailed specification the coursework really doesn't lend itself to improving the knowledge required to do well in the exam.

    Now the coursework is not marked, doing well in the exam is our only target.
  4. Skeoch

    Skeoch Star commenter

    Well.... now that it's been broken by so many people it's not possible to mend it and make it count. It's far too late to worry about that. But the process of the NEA was supposed to be educational as well as assessment, and to fit into the whole of the learning in the specification, so it's up to teachers to use the NEA in the best way they possibly can. That means the candidates need to as well as they can. I don't see the "aim for the bottom mark" as being the right thing at all.
  5. Dhesketh

    Dhesketh New commenter

    I am specifically talking from a viewpoint of limited time, needed to complete the spec and needing to hand in coursework that doesn't count. For example, spending X amount of time writing an evaluation for the coursework, or using that time to learn content from the spec.

    A student wouldn't be expected to write an evaluation in their computer science exam.

    Just out of interest are you teaching this or another exam board?
  6. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    I've always thought that the NEA tasks should reflect the theory content more - the only one that's really done that that I'm aware of is the recently OCR compression task.

    I can see the value in spending time on programming tasks, and don't like it when people say that the NEA "doesn't count", because it means that they're only thinking about results and league tables rather than life skills and long-term retention.

    That said, I think the 20 hours would be better spent doing something like the tasks in the OCR Coding Challenges booklet.

    Am I also right in thinking that while OCR has relaxed the rules and teachers can now help students, they can use the internet, etc. (which means that the new arrangements are actually better than the formally-marked NEA), the Edexcel rules remain unchanged?
    tjra likes this.
  7. elder_cat

    elder_cat Established commenter

    I no longer teach. I'm just looking at this from the sidelines, so feel free to ignore anything I post.

    For anyone whose students have already spent time completing their NEA, then I can see the frustration teachers must feel at having used up that amount of time which they cannot reclaim. But for anyone whose students have not yet done the NEA, if the debacle hadn't happened, then surely their planning at the beginning of the year would have had to allow time for both the NEA and the unit content.

    On the face of it, not doing the coursework element, means students would have more time for studying the 'content from the spec'. So potentially this may allow them to get better grades in the exam. Which makes sense from the point of view of ensuring they get the best grades they can on the certificate.

    The only caveat with that is the certificate then offers no guarantee at all that the student is able to actually implement and use the theory they have studied. If that doesn't matter, then completing the 'coursework' element doesn't seem to offer any real benefit, other than attempting to ensure that any students who have completed it are not disadvantaged, by virtue of having less time available for the 'content' element.
  8. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    They changed their minds and teachers can now provide feedback and more support than was previously allowed.

    We'd already done 12 or so hours so I'm going to give them the extra hours to work on and submit it.

    With regards to the first post, you'd be unwise to ignore doing it; schools who submit little for the NEA whose students then do reasonably well in the exam will be investigated. This setup will continue for at least one more year so exam boards aren't just going to ignore those situations.
  9. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    I am enjoying not having to mark it though - that would have been my half-term ruined as it was originally due in for late March!
  10. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I find this an amazing statement. the basic assumption here is that the NEA does not exist for educational purposes. Says it all really.
  11. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Do you seriously believe that there will be any more NEAs?

    Every school in the land which still has computer science students will be drilling those students mercilessly. They will be doing past paper questions till their wee hands drop off. Extra Easter lessons, extra interventions, extra exam practice, extra spreadsheets. if the NEA counts for nothing most schools and all academies will pay lip service to them.

    The NEA is dead. The DFE have finally had to accept that schools will cheat whenever the opportunity presents itself.
  12. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    The iGCSE doesn't have coursework - there is a task that students complete, but instead of writing it up, they are tested on it in an exam paper. A bit like English Literature, I suppose, where you read the book and then answer questions on it in an exam.

    I quite liked that approach, but it disadvantaged weaker programmers who would have gained marks from writing up their NEA. You might argue that that's a good thing, though - it seems curious that most of the marks for a programming task don't come from the programming.
  13. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    I taught the IGCSE for years and I much preferred it to the NEA approach.

    The simple fact is that schools will cheat on any NEA tasks, an alternative must be found. I like the A level idea of having an exam which is a programming task
  14. flishflash

    flishflash New commenter

    We literally finished our "20 hours" two days ago, although we are with OCR. Fortunately I waited and waited before starting the NEA as I banked on it being cancelled at some point - I could never see it working as far back as last September.

    We spent about 3 hours finding online solutions for the quiz and discussing 1-1 what to do and how to do it. Then students spent another 3 hours knocking up something passable for a design including a bit of pseudocode and a flowdiagram, and the code. Then we did the main write-up parts as a class on a 1-1 basis, as I went round students individually offering help. Essentially, we eg brainstormed on a 1-1 basis 10 ideas the could write about on the board for the evaluation and then I asked them to pick no more than 4, including 2 good points, 1 medium point and one silly point. We then spent 10 hours with them sitting on the desks but covering points in the specification. Occasionally I got them to add a note to the coursework from something we covered but as no one is going to look at it to mark, what was the friggin point?

    The whole exercise was a MASSIVE complete and utter waste of everyone's time but I now have a set of passable and different looking NEAs.

    I hate the exam boards. This was so obviously never going to work right from the start that you question how competent the people working in them actually are. It has created lots of stress and workload and is the main reason so few wanted to do A Level and the department is being closed in July with redundancies.

    However part of me is chuffed to bits as i now have a fab job az HoD in Singapore in August!!!!!!!!!
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2018
  15. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    I didn't say that. I said that the situation - from what exam boards have said - is that the current Y10 will also have to complete it as a piece of work that takes 20 hours but doesn't count towards final grade.
  16. tjra

    tjra Occasional commenter

    From talking to a Geography colleague, it sounds similar. They still go on a trip to find out something exciting like rock erosion, but instead of writing it up and handing in the coursework, they have to answer questions on it in an exam. It would be relatively easy to do this for the NEA - the student could perhaps bring a printout of their code into the exam and then answer questions about it.
  17. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    @tjra I think this could easily work for the GCSE. Pre-release a scenario along with some or all of the code to solve the problem, with or without issues to everyone, totally public, 1 year before the GCSE, which gives teachers time to go on training, work amongst themselves or by themselves and allow time for commercial material to be released, and time for the public to discuss it to their heart's content. Let the teacher work through it when they are ready with their classes, analyse it, design new parts, improve it, correct mistakes, change the code, make improvements, design a test plan, dry run parts, evaluate it, and do whatever they want to do. Students could then have a three hour exam on it or an arty style exam lasting all day, with students taking their notes and code into the exam with them. I like it. It sounds plausible and practical.

    The only real issue is the lack of quality Computer Science teachers so many schools will inevitably have a well-meaning ex ICT or Business Studies teacher without a Computer Science / software degree preparing students, but at least by releasing the problem early to teachers, they can be helped a bit as described above. There will also be many years until more than 46% of schools include Computer Science amongst the subjects they teach, or student numbers recover, such has been the mess ofqual and the poor quality exam boards got us into with sh8t specifications and stupid-beyond-belief NEA.
  18. notrevlim

    notrevlim Established commenter

    Without a serious programming element, CS might easily decline into a descriptive rather than analytical subject, a bit like describing saws and chisels in DT instead of making something. In last year's computing there was scope for creating something from the CABs beyond the basic briefs, and by doing that, having a way of escaping the "let's copy the answer from the internet," mentality. To follow that path required that the teacher was secure in programming skills. (As it happened, we were forced to do two new CABs at the last minute because a parent identified the school while asking for help online.)
    There seems to be a Board mentality for doing 'clever' programming. In my experience.clever programming keeps things simple. Let the data do the work. It's usually faster and more elegant too.
  19. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    The real, root problems in all this is that OFQUAL are completely incompetent, the exam boards are dreadfully inept with poor quality employees who have far too little real experience in actual schools and the organisations offering advice to the exam boards are elitist and totally out of touch with 'average' state schools in the UK.
  20. moscowbore

    moscowbore Star commenter

    Lot of sense being posted here. However, Computer Science in England is doomed. Lack of properly qualified teachers, MATs looking to maximise the "league table points/money spent" ratio, badly designed qualifications, clueless people in charge of the whole thing.
    it is hopeless. Truly devoid of hope. DFE will find a way to dumb it down and remove all that hard programming stuff and then change the grade boundaries so that 25% will get you an A so that they can trumpet their amazing success at CAS meetings where they can all congratulate themselves.
    flishflash likes this.

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