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Selecting KS3 students to do Computer Science?

Discussion in 'Computing and ICT' started by gregometer, Oct 18, 2015.

  1. gregometer

    gregometer Occasional commenter

    My comprehensive academy has been doing Computer Science for two years at GCSE although I've been at the school just over a year now. It's quite popular, and last year we had two classes. What has become apparent though, is that about a quarter of each class really struggle. They really don't get Computer Science, the logical thinking that's needed, the need to work hard outside of class on their own, the need to work through algorithms before looking at coding and so on.

    We have previously let anyone do it, as long as they had an aptitude for Maths (was a member of one of the upper KS3 Maths streamed groups) but we want to select students in a better way, that will reduce the chances of some selecting something they can't cope with (although we need to ensure we don't reject too many, as we need bums on seats). But how? We are going to teach some SmallBasic to everyone after half term with some designing a solution type exercises, and keep notes about how each student does but I wonder if there are other metrics we could use, perhaps a kind of aptitude to computing test or designing some logical thinking tests?

    Any thoughts on this? You seem to know what you are doing AV!! Got any suggestions?
  2. Stiltskin

    Stiltskin Star commenter

    I'm presuming from what you've written that you don't do Computer Science at KS3?

    When you say they don't get it, are you teaching them the Computational Thinking skills that they need (have a look at the Barefoot resources for some ideas if you're not)? Also you may find the progression pathways document on the Computing at Schools website helpful.
  3. TonyGT

    TonyGT Established commenter

    if they have an aptitude for Maths, I would say that they can cope. Maybe it's not that they can't cope, but that they are losing interest or the course isn't what they expected it to be. Firstly I'd say take a look at the course that you offer. There are a few to choose from and maybe the current one isn't the best suited to your students. Also, start teaching the course (a watered down introduction of it) a year early so your students know what to expect and have adapted their learning styles by the time they get there.

    I effectively do Computer Science GCSE in Grade 9, we just don't call it that. It then allows us to more seaemlessly move in to the actual qualification in Grade 10.
  4. DEmsley

    DEmsley New commenter

    As this is GCSE it is designed for the whole cohort so everyone should be entitled to take it. What you seem to be describing is a mismatch between the students and the teaching methodology/pedagogy. Whilst I do take gregometer point about "the need to work hard outside of class on their own," I have to say: 'twas ever thus.

    Course expectations is a major issue - No we're not playing computer games all the time.... however if you want to write one we can do that.

    If you are currently selecting on maths ability and yet still finding 1/4 don't get it why not try a blanket "Yes" to anyone wanting to take it?
  5. madcat

    madcat Occasional commenter

    It can be interesting (and useful (and sometimes very worrying)) to audit students' expectations of
    a) what they expect the course to be like and
    b) what they expect to achieve by the end of it (grade , skills etc).

    As having carried out similar exercises in the past .I've found it interesting that the weakest students are the most likely to have totally the wrong idea about both the course content/activities and their own projected attainment.

    This can then help you to "manage their expectations"
  6. gigaswitch1

    gigaswitch1 Occasional commenter

    There is a discussion on CAS talking about national averages and comparing CS to other subjects and their results. I have to agree with madcat, pupils need to understand what the course is and what sort of results they can expect. The weakest students have to be given the true facts, that CS is difficult and they are more than likely going to end up with a level 1 in CS. I have a weak student who wanted to swap from CS to ICT. When asked why he took CS, he said that he thought it was the same as ICT; the annoying thing is that I taught the pupil in Year 9, spoke to him on parents evening and constantly told him that it was not ICT and it was difficult, he still took it, sometimes you just can't win.

    We are on our second cohort and the problem I am now dealing with is managing the expectations of SLT. They are still thinking it is ICT and they will get 100% A-C grades; it does not matter how many times that you tell them that CS is as difficult as maths and physics, they don't listen and want the grades from the weaker students that they get from ICT. I can't wait till ICT has been improved and the results are relative to the rest of the school, that will help CS and the problem with SLT,
  7. mkl446

    mkl446 New commenter

    We run Entry Level Computing in year 9 when the subject itself is still compulsory for all students. This means we are able to assess their aptitude for theory and programming - this helps to tell us if the students are likely to do well at GCSE, but it also indicates to the students if it’s not the right subject for them to take further.
  8. JaquesJaquesLiverot

    JaquesJaquesLiverot Established commenter

    It would be nice to think that everyone who wanted to take Computing would be able to, but I know that that's not how schools work any more.

    Do you have proper Computing at KS3? My KS3 course covers most of the theory content for GCSE, or at least all of the topics, so students will already know whether they have an aptitude for Computing before they take their options.

    Computer Science is really Maths, so Maths setting probably is the best predictor of success. If you have access to something like SPSS, or you're familiar with Octave, you could do some regression tests on the results for the different subjects and find out.

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