Assessing Computer Science

Assessment at KS3 – Skills and Understanding (Blooms Taxonomy) VS Content and Knowledge (Computing at School’s ‘Knowledge Pathway Grid’):


Effective student assessment is of paramount importance when it comes to student progress. Students need to know ‘where they are’ in relation to their understanding and ‘how they can improve’. Teachers need to be able to consistently assess students understanding so that they can provide effective, tailored feedback and pitch lessons appropriately to so that all students within a lesson make sustained and rapid progress. Since the current Computing Curriculum has no set level descriptors we have decided to create our own assessment which is tailored to the philosophy of ComputerScienceUK. When deciding on how we would assess students within the various areas of the subject we first studied the various methods discussed on the ‘Computing at School’s Website’. A widely accepted method is basing assessment on the ‘Progression Pathways Assessment Framework KS1 (Y1) to KS3 (Y9)’ (Mark Dorling 2014)(see grid below).

The issue we had with this is that despite the grid giving a clear frame work for progression in knowledge and content, it doesn’t necessarily assess their level of understanding for these topics. At ComputerScienceUK, our philosophy when it comes to assessment is that assessing knowledge needs to be carefully balanced with understanding. A student may have excellent recall for examinations but not necessarily have a deep understanding of the content being assessed. We therefore decided to investigate methods of assessing ‘understanding’ which led us to examine Bloom’s Taxonomy and decided to incorporate this theory of ‘higher order questioning’ when assessing students at the end of each unit.

It was therefore decided that the ‘progression pathways grid’ would be used to decide the content to be delivered in each unit (e.g. year 8 hardware unit would roughly cover content from the hardware column in rows levelled 4-7) and the subsequent topic areas to be assessed (so that students’ knowledge of these areas could be assessed) and that Blooms Taxonomy would be used to set the various styles of questions for each of these topic areas (so that student’s understanding could be assessed).


Knowledge and Understanding are not the same.
Students may be able to remember and recall knowledge but will not necessarily understand it.
The grid above clearly shows progression in terms of content/topics and their increasing difficulty but the issue is that this is very much ‘knowledge based’ and so using this grid alone to assess students will not fully assess an individual’s understanding of the various aspects of the curriculum.
It is ComputerScienceUK’s aim to try to ‘marry together’ the ‘Progression Pathways Grid’ with ‘Blooms Taxonomy’ to assess:
– students’ knowledge of the content delivered for each unit (by setting questions which cover the topics from the unit which in turn have been pitched over a range of levels)
– students’ relative understanding of the content delivered (by setting a range of question styles from the more simple: ‘list’, ‘define’ etc. to the harder: ‘explain’ or ‘discuss’).

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