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ICT A-Level in Crisis?

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by Vimes, Aug 21, 2011.

  1. I'm pretty sure that exam board's reply
    would be something along the lines of “ICT students have below
    average ability...”. If you're really interested in researching
    this you would want access to:


    http://www.cemcentre.org/




    However, access to most of the
    information on the site is restricted to subscribers. Ask your sixth
    form team for a username/password (if your school subscribes). There
    is some free information on the site, such as a study into the
    relative difficulties of A-levels but only Computing not ICT is
    mentioned. But it is true some “traditional” subjects are
    easy...English Literature for example.
     
  2. DEmsley

    DEmsley New commenter

    I'm sure there are threads with similar titles 12, 24 and 36 months ago. Yawn...
    If you are one of the people who thinks Moderators get it wrong all the time, apply to the boards and become one - you cannot change the system from without!
    If your students are not getting the grade they ought to be look at their scripts, compare this with the mark schemes, find out where*are* they going wrong. Similarly why not become a marker for scripts?
    When did you last go on the exam board's courses to find out what they really want? The exam boards are like the Spice Girls....




     
  3. I appreciate what you're saying but you can't ignore the national statistics. There has to be something more to it that just the odd unhappy teacher. Yes, I've heard the examiner argument before but I already work in two departments to A-Level, have two kids of my own and am resident staff in a boarding school working two evenings until 11pm and one weekend in three. Besides, if 'getting on the inside' is the only way to truly fathom out what's going on, there's something wrong with the system, not the audience! We go on standardisation every year and my 2nd in Dpt. is a Principal Examiner for GCSE ICT so we're already fairly clued up about the exam game. No, there's more to this than meets the eye...
     
  4. You make some good points. I teach DT too and it's barely changed in a decade bar (ironically) CAD/CAM whereas ICT seems to be on shifting sands. One minute it's about skills, the next it's not and it feels more like business studies. And I agree that the brighter students tend to go for the 'facilitating' subjects, or so the Russel Group likes to call them. I should have been an Art Teacher!
     
  5. In response to an earlier posting suggesting we all go on lots of courses to get a feel about what is required. Or even better get a job as a moderator/marker to get 'inside' ; how about the fact that I had the actual senior moderator for one of the OCR A level papers teaching that very syllabus to 7 students this year. Results :
    Not one grade A on the paper, in fact one even got a U. Yep you read it right. A kid got a U grade being taught for a year by the moderator who wrote the bloody paper!!!!
    Nope.Something VERY rotten at the heart of it all I fear. Dear God I envy some of the other subjects - the same regurgitated stuff every year, old text books from ten years ago that are valid, questions that don't need hours of trying to gauge what is being asked and where even the slow kids can pull a B/C if they put the effort in. I'm lucky if my A graders get a B after all of their efforts. On the odd occaision that one of them gets an A grade it normally indicates they are A grade kids on all their other subjects which tends to be maths, physics and chemistry, My heart sinks if, on the first day they tell me they are doing History, Art, English Lit, Politics etc.
    Drop into a major systems office somewhere and watch the guys faces when you tell them that they could quite easily lose a grade at A level or even a university place if they don't fully understand the difference between, explain, expand, discuss or give. Like that means a damned thing to them in the real world of their subject.
    God help any NQT venturing out on teaching ICT at A level ... switch to your second subject PDQ !
     
  6. compoit

    compoit New commenter

    Agree with you Brianuk and the quote from a fellow sufferer. I wonder why those in control at the exam boards want to put themselves out of jobs by destroying this subject. I put it down trying to cover such a large subject, as ICT is, in the most comprehensive way possible, instead of selecting the most important and relevant parts and teach/test on those. We were once told by a Chief Examiner at an Inset meeting that the WJEC AS level is not a broad subject. WHAT!!!
     
  7. I think the shame is that the AQA A-Level at least has a good grasp on what the subject is actually about. It places it as a pseudo-business studies option with only 20% coursework, which struck me as odd to begin with (I inherited it in January and was left with no choice but to continue) but if you look at the real world where ICT consultants are brought in to advise on and implement huge projects, their job is to understand an organisation and to project manage the transition to a new system - they are not required to actually code the new system. That might sound like a wishy-washy role but it is a very real, highly paid and keenly sought after one. You only need to read the news regularly to see how much money is wasted on unneeded, costly, late and poorly implemented systems to see that this role is often poorly managed in the real world, hence the need for confident, skilled and professional people to fill it. As a final point, I don't think that the confusion (internally and externally of the profession) between Computing and ICT helps and that, as subjects, we need to co-exist much more effectively. Whilst thinking about switching to Computing, I purchased the AQA textbook and found this in the preface: "If you only want to acquire skills in using office tools created by computer scientists then studying ICT would be a better option. If you want to be at the forefront of 21st century thought and science then study Computing". Whilst there are real elements of truth to this statement, the utterly dismissive and incorrect stance it takes to what A-Level ICT is about is shockingly disappointing but, if I am to be honest, not entirely surprising. The stereotype of the computer scientist being the aloof boffin, out of touch with what his/her creations should best serve is alive and kicking and embodied in my A-Level's stable-mate! Can't we all just get along?!
     
  8. It may sound like a crude analogy but to act as though, in large scale projects, a Systems Developer (Computing) can operate without a Systems Analyst (ICT) is pure folly. There's just not enough recognition of this between the two A-Levels. We could really make ourselves a strong, logical and effective unit if there were. Why not re-brand them as Systems Development and Systems Analysis? To ignore this reality is to say that a rally driver doesn't need a co-driver, a cinematographer doesn't need a director or a band doesn't need a manager. On a small scale project, perhaps no, they don't, but these A-Levels are geared (as they should be) to the big, bad world of huge corporate operations where people need to work in multi-disciplined teams if they want to survive. I just don't sense and real recognition or promotion of this by the exam boards or specifications. Rant over.
     
  9. Just received a letter from my SMT that we are no longer running AS ICT.......Gutted!!

    We were with WJEC.
     
  10. itgeek

    itgeek New commenter

    There are a number of issues here, but in my experience many students do not enter ICT from a strong academic background, so I don't expect to many high grades from them, the perception of students is also that A level is an extension of school ICT, that is often no longer GCSE but a B/Tec certificate or something else that is non examined, consequently they lose interest. I do agree with the systems analysis rebrand, this is how I try to describe my AQA course. Frankly in my opinion the specification is woolly and insufficiently detailed. The exam board position at AQA is that they want a specification that they can ask anything on (That is what was said at a preparing to teach meeting in Manchester that I attended), consequently students and teachers need to be really up to date with new initiatives to get good grades. I could go on but that is enough for now !
     
  11. Sorry to hear about the AS being cancelled man....that sucks...I really do feel that the subject is in the middle of an identity crisis...I heard last year that the Royal Society was launching an inquiry into why numbers and pass rates in Computing are in decline, but as with many studies into this area, absolutely no mention of ICT...once again we get treated like second rate cousins...
     
  12. Apparently the Royal Society Computing in Schools study will be released at the end of this year. I've trawled through some of the feedback they've received though (for example from the Institute of Engineering & Technology) and they too seem to dismiss what A-Level ICT is all about stating that ICT merely refers to the teaching of skills for using computers in everyday life e.g. word processing. What hope do we have of a meaningful overhaul if the 'experts' don't bother to get to grips with what ICT really is post-16?
     
  13. Silent85

    Silent85 New commenter

    has anyone looked at the IB' ITGS course that seems to understand what ICT is about more than the traditional exam boards
     
  14. What is ICT? It's a course that teaches a few mixed up basic skills. And what skills depends on who is delivering it. It is in the same league as business Studies, psychology and media. What is needed is a functional skills in ict course up to ks4 and then A level computing for the sixth form. Get rid of everything else.
     
  15. djphillips1408

    djphillips1408 New commenter


    Is this not just shooting yourself in the foot and
    likely to lead to teachers in our area losing their jobs? I know many on
    here come from computing backgrounds and you have a passion for it and I
    applaud that. However you are in a very tiny minority and this will be
    reflected in the uptake for the subject. Bottom line is that computing
    is hard and kids who are not genuinely interested in it are highly
    unlikely to succeed. If you want to shoehorn kids who could get a C
    grade at ICT into computing for the sake of you beliefs then be prepared
    to take the flak from SMT when you get carp grades from those sort of
    kids. Then watch as your numbers dwindle to the point where you need
    less classes and less staff to deliver them.
    ICT is not in
    crisis, it's always had poor grades and that will not magically be fixed
    overnight. Even if we all had a plethora of super bright kids the
    boards would not be allowed to move from around 7% A grades to anything
    much higher overnight, they would just move the boundaries for UMS so it
    went up by a couple of percentage points maximum. So get used to it, we
    will always have mediocre kids producing mediocre grades, I am quite
    happy with the C grade average my A2 kids got this year, because that
    was a genuine reflection of their honest ability level
     
  16. clickschool

    clickschool New commenter

    It helps when moderators do a good job.
    After popping into school today, I've read comments about coursework (OCR Applied ICT) that are totally incorrect. For example, there is a comment about candidates needing to include milestones, lead/lag time and contingency time where clearly they've done this. Not only are they included in a diagram, but also they've explained these principles to demonstrate understanding. There are also inaccurate comments concerning an AS unit as well, from a different moderator. It's not just a few comments either - reports are littered with unjustified, wishy-washy and inaccurate comment. I can cope with comments concerning slight differences of opinion, useful tips and genuine error, but this is extreme. The feedback sheets should come with a health warning. I was nice and relaxed, now I am angry.
    Although grades haven't changed much, there are principles to consider.
    Interestingly, unit 12 which was ran for the first time (Publishing) was fine.

     
  17. "Is this not just shooting yourself in the foot and
    likely to lead to teachers in our area losing their jobs"
    The priority must be providing quality qualifications for upils, not keeping soft options like ICT or Nationals going for the sake of jobs. The drastic decline in numbers taking ICT A Level recently is because it is a waffley subject with no consistent standards. OCR Nationals is so easy to get a pass in that it has bought the subject into disrepute. I'm sorry you feel it is more important to keep poor qualifications going for as long as possible but I respect your views.
    "Bottom line is that computing
    is hard". I would not say that it is hard. It is a rigorous, proper subject, like Maths or Chemistry that requires pupils to work hard. ICT on the other hand is a soft subject, but worse, it is hard to actually do well in it because like jelly, it is damned hard to grip, to define properly with clear standards that everyone can understand and follow.
    "It helps when moderators do a good job." Do remember that there are no minimum qualifications to be a moderator. Anyone can do it and exam boards will take on anyone if they are desperate.In the past, I've had moderators marking who clearly have no idea what they are doing, especially with the more technical topics like normalisation and floating point numbers.





    I know many on
    here come from computing backgrounds and you have a passion for it and I
    applaud that. However you are in a very tiny minority and this will be
    reflected in the uptake for the subject. Bottom line is that computing
    is hard and kids who are not genuinely interested in it are highly
    unlikely to succeed. If you want to shoehorn kids who could get a C
    grade at ICT into computing for the sake of you beliefs then be prepared
    to take the flak from SMT when you get carp grades from those sort of
    kids. Then watch as your numbers dwindle to the point where you need
    less classes and less staff to deliver them.
    ICT is not in
    crisis, it's always had poor grades and that will not magically be fixed
    overnight. Even if we all had a plethora of super bright kids the
    boards would not be allowed to move from around 7% A grades to anything
    much higher overnight, they would just move the boundaries for UMS so it
    went up by a couple of percentage points maximum. So get used to it, we
    will always have mediocre kids producing mediocre grades, I am quite
    happy with the C grade average my A2 kids got this year, because that
    was a genuine reflection of their honest ability level
     
  18. To say that Computing is a "rigorous, proper subject" and that ICT is a "soft subject" is merely fuelling the unhelpful stereotypes that already exist in and outside of our profession. Please refer to my earlier post re: the nature of the real world of IT consulting and project management. What exactly is "proper" anyway? What is "hard"? Is creating a beautifully crafted stone sculpture hard? Is convincingly delivering Shakespeare to an audience of strangers hard? Is manufacturing a chair for a severely disabled child hard? Is creating a fully functioning multi-media web 2.0 site with a back-end database hard? The answer to all of these, of course, is yes - and all of these experiences took place in my school, this year, outside of subjects that are considered to be "hard" or facilitating such as those that you mention. More to the point: is the confidence and personal skills developed whilst undertaking any or all of the above of more or less worth than being able to script in C#, differentiate an equation or prove the half life or a particle? You tell me. The point is that the world is full of rich variety and to argue that one discipline or ability is of more or less "worth" that the other is a naive waste of time as there are so many factors at play. What do you want to do in life? What is your personal sense of worth? What are the commonly accepted senses of worth in your society? Do you adhere to these? What are your passions in life? How is your mind wired? Is altruistic gain more important than financial gain? Is the pen mightier than the sword? Is an academic person more or less likely to be happy than a practical person? Do actions speak louder than words? Who would you rather be stuck on a desert island with: a particle physicist or a carpenter? Don't you realise that our idea of what is "worthy" is not driven by any deep rooted educational truth but by the needs of industry and of the sociological values held by economists and politicians around the time of the industrial revolution when public education first became a reality. Our ideas of "worth" are merely echoes of their ideas, expressed in their most twisted from by our current minister for eduction and by elitist think-tanks such as the Russell Group. To be blunt: as a teacher, you should know better that to rank order the importance of subjects and skills.
     
  19. If you cram eduation with too many noddy ict qualifications, you simply run down the subject over time. It's like when you stuff endless numbers of pound shops on the high street. Over time, you end up with tatty, sad-looking, poor quality shopping areas, which few willl want to visit. Much better to aim to be oxford street.
     
  20. Indeed. It's a wonder that with Entry Level, Basic Level, Key Skills, Functional Skills and NVQs that the mighty pillars of English and Mathematics haven't been consigned to the bargain bin. Perhaps another way to look at it would be to accept that the core subjects of English, Maths and ICT need a range of entry routes from high to low to give all people an opportunity to experience success in these fields.
     

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