Observing Computing

Jun 29, 2017

Miles Berry

Roehampton has been looking at what it can do to better support our school experience tutors in observing and feeding back to trainees on their teaching in each of the primary subjects. I was asked to draft some suggestions for what to look out for in computing lessons, that could fit on half a side of A4. Here’s what I came up with. Much of this is based on David Brown’s (the excellent former HMI lead for computing and e-safety) thoughts on inspecting computing that he shared at the launch of Barefoot Computing, back in July 2014. What would you include? What should I have left out?

Subject Specific Pedagogy

  • Is computational thinking (a way of looking at problems and systems so that computers can be used to help solve or understand them) promoted in these lessons?
  • Are pupils encouraged to play, tinker and experiment, being guided to reflect on what they discover?
  • Is there opportunity for collaborative work? Are all pupils benefitting equally from such opportunities?
  • Are pupils learning through creatively making things to show to others, or are the confined to following the instructions they are given?
  • Is computing placed in a context that is authentic, meaningful and motivating?


  • Does planning show a balanced treatment of computer science, information technology and digital literacy (the foundations, applications and implications of computing)?
  • Have any risks regarding online safety been assessed? Are pupils taught how to keep themselves safe and act responsibily online?
  • Is planning imaginative and stimulating? Is it skilfully designed to match to the full range of pupils’ needs to ensure highly effective continuity and progression in their learning?
  • Are links with other subjects in the school productive in strengthening pupils’ learning in computing?


  • Is teaching informed by excellent subject knowledge and understanding of continuing developments in teaching and learning in computing?
  • Does the teacher have a high level of competence and expertise, both in terms of their specialist knowledge and technical skills and in their understanding of active learning in computing?
  • Is teaching rooted in the development of pupils’ understanding of important concepts and progression within the lesson and over time?
  • Does the lesson address pupils’ misconceptions very effectively; are the teacher’s responses to pupils’ questions accurate and highly effective in stimulating further thought?
  • Does the teacher communicate high expectations, enthusiasm and passion about computing to pupils? Do they challenge and inspire pupils to produce the best work they can?

Learning and Assessment

  • Do pupils demonstrate excellent understanding of important concepts in all three strands of the computing curriculum?
  • Can pupils consistently use their subject knowledge and understanding very effectively in written and verbal explanations and can solve challenging problems?
  • Do pupils show independence in their use of computing across all three strands of the curriculum and exhibit positive attitudes towards the subject and working constructively with others?
  • Do pupils show high levels of originality, imagination, creativity and innovation in their understanding and application of skills in computing?