Comparing the Specs – Programming element GCSE Computing 2016

Part of my performance management is the comparison of specs and identifying which I would like to choose for next year. I thought about writing a massive report, but a blog post may aid others, so I’ll give it a go here.

the new computing 2016 specs are out and there are common things that happen in both as far as changes are concerned.

  • Coursework is now at 20%
  • Coursework can now only be sat in year 11 to combat plagiarism (I’ve phoned and checked this as it’s not currently in the AQA bumpf)
  • there is now only one controlled assessment task that is a coding task (however we’ll get onto the controlled assessment releases in a bit)
  • there will be 2 40% exams, like the A-Level with one on theory and the other on programming/logic
  • Coursework will change every year(but this is happening now, so not really a major change)

Programming

initially looking at the draft specs, the coding elements of the course look very similar in terms of what they are expected of the students. I do however like the breakdown of the elements in the AQA spec for clarification on some of the points. All specs insist on the same things.

However, the coursework for the AQA seems to follow a much more traditional route in the fact you have to use the area of a shape to do a number of different calculations, I can see how I would approach and solve this problem almost straight away.

The OCR spec doesn’t have the same level of clarity in the outline of it’s spec, but having taught this before, do I need it? sometimes I would say yes (I’m currently teaching the A-Level OCR and I’m struggling with clarity on some of the points ot plan lessons). The delivery guides for OCR are good, but I’m a teacher who likes to plan his own lessons, so would rather have clarity than someone telling me how to do it (if that makes sense).

The coursework for OCR is much more abstract. They have provided 3 samples instead of one (which is good), but looking at htem in detail I cannot see how a year 11 would solve these as they read very much like a database style solution, even though the spec insists it has to be coded.  I’m confused as the following spec (http://www.ocr.org.uk/Images/226767-unit-j276-03-programming-project-task-1-sample-non-exam-assessment.pdf) even talks about generating reports from a computer program, why do I keep thinking databases? ( I know this could be a simple text file output, but that isn’t what I’d call a report)

The Programming exam

I’m a bit lacking in understanding for both of these. the AQA model seems to be much more traditional in it’s approach, write an algorithm to solve x (and x is used a lot here), and solve the problem, whereas the OCR one tends to look much more simplistic (e.g. here is an algorithm, what does it mean), which makes me wonder what more will be in there.

For both I’m a bit confused because there are sections on Binary conversion and bit rates in here (OCR) and Logic gates in the exam(AQA), which I would of expected in the theory section, so if they are going down this route then I have to  wonder are they going to put HTML code in the first exam?(not show, total conjecture)

So where am I leaning?

at the moment looking at what is there, I’m leaning towards AQA. My reasoning is I’m a programmer by trade and I like the way that this seems to be assessed and the assessment materials provided for OCR have really confused me.  I’ve taught OCR for the last 5 years (at least) and the work/support they have always provided is good, but I have real concerns about the controlled assessment and how it is presented (I’m not sure how I would solve it to a level I’d be satisfied with, so how are the kids?).  The exams look similar but I think I’d rather have questions on binary logic gates with programming than binary conversion and bit rates as I think it fits more.

 

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