Intent, implementation and impact for our PGCE in computing
Mar 06, 2023
Secondary teacher training in computing takes place within an overarching regulatory framework. The subject that trainees are learning to teach, as experienced by their pupils, is described in the English national curriculum and in the requirements and specifications for GCSE and A Level exams. It’s important that all trainees have the subject knowledge, and subject specific pedagogy, to ensure their pupils succeed at, and hopefully enjoy, their computing education.
The training requirements are set out in the Core Content Framework for ITT and accompanying regulation. Core content is of necessity broad and generic, but nevertheless forms the basis of our training programme. Broadly, the declarative ‘learn that’ statements are addressed, often multiple times, through the computing and professional studies sessions on campus and at our hub schools, with the procedural ‘learn how to’ being deeply embedded in school based practice and addressed explicitly in trainees’ work with their mentors. We have emphasised a holistic approach to these two types of required knowledge, asking trainees to explicitly connect their learning at Roehampton with their experience in school, and drawing on their developing professional practice to reflect on and inform their understanding of the declarative elements. The award of Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) is contingent on trainees meeting all the Teachers’ Standards - this forms a summative, end point of the course, with Roehampton’s ambitious teacher training curriculum, based on core content, ensuring that trainees who complete the full course meet the required standards.
In developing our computing specific programme, I’ve worked with our mentors to map the requirements of core content to what these mean specifically for those training to become computing teachers. Much of our programme was already strongly evidence based, but the detailed mapping exercise of the coverage of core content, and our work with mentors in interpreting these specifically for computing education, has led to an overall strengthening and rebalancing of the programme. Throughout the subject specific elements of the programme, we have a continued focus on the teaching or programming, whilst recognising the full breadth of the national curriculum and exam requirements. This recurring theme illustrates many elements of core content, and allows us to draw on the extensive evidence base and developing professional practice in undergraduate and school-based computer science education.
Roehampton has a long tradition of teacher training, and continues to offer a distinct, carefully structured, and ambitious approach to teachers’ professional formation. Froebel’s insights are directly relevant to computing education - his careful sequence of ‘gifts’ with which children can build, and learn about the world, mirrors the careful sequencing of programming languages to which pupils are introduced. Similarly, Froebel’s kindergarten provides both the name and inspiration for Resnick’s MIT research group, responsible for the Scratch programming language. Froebel’s ‘crafts’ offer an insight to developing schema and ‘notional machines’ through practical programming, as is best reflected in the work of Papert.
The University’s strategy for 2019-22 emphasised enhancing our reputation for excellent in teaching and research - the twin strands of academia are strongly connected in our teacher training programme, with a focus on evidence informed practice, and criticality in our treatment of research. Our trainees’ well-being is a shared priority, and I encourage trainees to find joy in the classroom, and to spark joy and curiosity in their pupils. Roehampton has a deeply seated commitment to inclusion and diversity, and my own research into computing education looks at attainment and participation amongst under-represented groups. Many of our trainees come to postgraduate study from non-traditional backgrounds, and typically share the School’s commitment to promoting social justice and equality.
The four threads of resilience, reflection, resourcefulness and respect are woven throughout our programme, from recruitment to graduation and beyond, and are mirrored by our overarching aims for ITT:
- Prepare our students for their early career induction
- Developing subject specific pedagogical content knowledge
- Create research informed curricula
- Build a network of experts
- Assure quality
Throughout their training, trainees reflect on their progress through weekly meetings with their school-based, subject specialist mentors. Mentors are encouraged to use a ‘reflective question resource’, which frames the procedural ‘learn how to’ requirements of core content as a structured set of questions to promote trainees’ own reflection and development. Responses then prompt set os SMART targets for trainees to address in the following week. Trainees upload a record of these meetings, alongside the plan of their observed lesson and formal written feedback on this to our online Abyasa system for monitoring progress. Abyasa reflections include comments on the links between the taught course and school experience, which helps mentors develop their understanding of the University’s curriculum.
After initial induction, the taught course takes place on Wednesdays, running 9:30 to 4:30. 20 of these sessions are on computing education, ‘subject studies’, and the other 15 focus on professional studies. The computing sessions can be seen as ensuring trainees qualify with the both the subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogy necessary to teach computing effectively and confidently. Professional studies has a broader focus on learning to teach, addressing common ground such as professionalism, behaviour management, assessment, adaptive teaching (including for SEND and students learning EAL) needed by all teachers. Six of these professional studies sessions are delivered in a network of ‘hub’ schools, drawing on the grounded expertise of teachers and school leaders there. The equally important element of learning to be a teacher is principally a focus of school-based training.
The training programme is structured by three phases, foundation (autumn term), development (spring term) and consolidation (summer term). Trainees develop their capability in teaching through this carefully sequenced programme, and the accompanying lectures ensure progression in depth and breadth of their knowledge of teaching, and of teaching computing.
In the foundation phase, a gradual induction process sees trainees observing expert colleagues, delivering part of a lesson or working with small groups, and eventually taking responsibility for planning and teaching around seven hours, across at least Key Stage 3 and 4. For most trainees, the taught course and experience in school in this term focusses on the foundations of effective teaching - being able to command attention and engagement, address disruption, plan and teach effective lessons and to check for pupils’ recall and application of what they have been taught. Computing lectures focus on lesson planning, effective presentation (drawing on cognitive science), behaviour management, the nature of computing and the computing curriculum, inclusion for SEND and EAL, the specific pedagogies of teaching programming, assessment and applying for and securing a first post. The subject assignment asks trainees to offer a rationale for teaching programming to all and to explore, drawing on the academic literature and their experience in school, how programming can be taught so that all succeed.
In the development phase, most trainees’ work in school will develop their knowledge and skills in relation to planning longer sequences of lessons and the effective use of assessment to inform their teaching; some trainees will go on to develop their ability to adapt their teaching, particularly in relation to pupils with SEND and those learning EAL. Teaching in this period increases to ten hours a week. Computing lectures mirror this shift in emphasis, with discussion of medium term planning, questions for assessment, adaptive teaching and questioning as a means towards this, the use of assessment data to investigate the impact of interventions. We look too at education technology, further develop trainees subject knowledge through work on A Level topics and consider online safety and its links to privacy, security and other aspects of cyber security. The written assignment combines themes of planning and assessment, with an investigation of how a chosen mode of assessment promotes progress across a unit of work.
The consolidation phase sees trainees more embedded in their host school, with teaching increasing to twelve hours a week throughout May, when University based lectures are paused. During this time, trainees take greater responsibility for planning, teaching, assessment and managing behaviour, and are expected to play a greater role in the life of the school. Computing lectures have a focus on developing pupils’ curiosity and love of learning in computing, covering themes of artificial intelligence and ethical computing, physical computing and creativity in computing and the potential of educational visits to develop pupils’ knowledge and appreciation of the history of computing. Key aspects of diversity in computing education, particularly in relation to socio-economic and gender factors are explore, and trainees are briefed on making the most of their years as an ECT. The summer term assignment focusses on adaptive teaching, in relation to SEND, EAL or ‘stretch and challenge’; whilst this is formally part of the professional studies module, it is answered in the context of teaching the subject specialism, and reinforces prior learning on the subject studies module. Trainees develop a case study of adapting their teaching to respond to a group of one to five pupils.
Computing lectures draw on a number of pedagogical techniques, with emphasis, where possible, on modelling trainees’ own practice with younger learners. There is ample opportunity for computing practical work, including regular programming challenges or exercises, making use of PRIMM, live-coding and pair-programming approaches. Formative use is made of online assessment, such as auto-graders, multiple choice quizzes, problem solving exercises and creative projects. Much use is made of discussion and questioning, and lectures include ample opportunity for trainees to reflect on and analyse their own school-based experience.
The themes of the taught course are the areas of professional learning identified in core content, and these are also emphasised in formal observation of trainees’ teaching, weekly review meetings between trainees and their mentors and in the (at least) termly observation visits by me. Within each of the areas of professional learning, the course follows a spiral model, with greater depth being achieved from one term to the next.
Whilst the academic part of the PGCE is assessed summatively through three written assignments, a more formative approach tracks trainees’ individual development as teachers. All trainees are formally observed once per week, with written feedback on their lesson. A computing-specific form is used to record this. Trainees also receive informal feedback on all their other lessons. Each week, trainees and mentors meet: trainees reflect on their progress and the links between placement and the taught course. Mentors use questions to encourage trainees to reflect on their progress through the procedural knowledge elements of core content and set SMART targets for the following week. Where trainees are judged to be no longer ‘on track’ to meet the summative requirements of the Teachers Standards, i.e. to be making insufficient progress through core content, intervention support plans can be put in place, by agreement between the mentor and subject tutor. If the targets set in these plans are not achieved within a two week period, then more formal cause for concern procedures are invoked.
Interim progress checks are carried out roughly half way through each phase, and a more detailed assessment, the end of phase profile, takes place towards the end of the term. Trainees who are not ‘on track’ at these points will generally be placed on support plans as above. The consolidation phase profile is a formal assessment against the teachers’ standards, and this forms the basis for the University’s recommendation to the DfE for the award of QTS.
Formal and informal observation of trainees’ teaching forms an immediate view of the impact of the course, with Abyasa reflections and notes providing an ongoing assessment of the progress which trainees make, in relation to their effectiveness as teachers and their pupils’ own progress, and this provides an immediate measure of the effectiveness of our approach.
The written assignments triangulate with this, drawing as they do on more extended reflections on pupils’ progress, attainment and engagement. Trainees use these to draw together their teaching experience, the insights of their mentors, lecture content and readings in academic and professional literature. Trainees work on these assignments shows retention of knowledge from the course, and the ability to apply this effectively to teaching. Assignments 2 and 3 provide a particular focus on the impact of teaching on pupils’ progress and engagement.
Trainees who complete the course have been successful in achieving QTS and the award of the PGCE. In a small number of cases, most often for health reasons, trainees interrupt, or more occasionally withdraw, from the course. In the case of interruption, we’ve been able to secure a return to the course in the following year, with the eventual award of QTS.
Computing teachers are in short supply, and trainees have quickly obtained their first post as an ECT. I remain in touch with many of my former students, who often make rapid progress within the profession.
The School has rigorous and respectful quality assurance procedures in place. I visit each trainee on placement at least once per term, meeting with their mentors and joining in with the feedback mentors offer to trainees on their teaching, and these visits themselves are quality assured at least once per term. Trainees and mentors each complete an online survey at the end of each placement, and subject tutors also assess the quality of the subject-specific placement. The academic side of the course is quality assured using University-wide procedures, including moderation of marking, periodic revalidation and the use of external examiners. External examiners are invited to meet with trainees, and often teach a session on the programme, as well as joining me for observation visits.
I encourage my trainees to provide feedback on the taught sessions, making helpful suggestions for better tailoring these to their needs. Hub-based professional studies sessions are each evaluated using an online survey. University-wide module evaluation surveys provide feedback into teaching on the taught course, as do termly programme boards attended by student representatives for each subject. At the end of the consolidation phase, trainees each complete an exit survey and attend a 1:1 interview with me. Trainees feedback through these channels results in ongoing changes to the delivery, structure and content of the taught course.Share