Top of page Staff details Overview Assessment Classroom resources This year's schools Past schools Other resources

The University of Birmingham - School of Computer Science

Teaching Computer Science in Schools

Academic Year 2017/18

1. Staff Details

Professor Achim Jung
Room 213
Tel: (+44) 121 414 4776
Office hours

2. Overview of the Module

2.1 How does it work?

This is a 10 credit module available to final year BSc and MSci/MEng students. It closely follows the general structure of the national Undergraduate Ambassadors Scheme (UAS). The module has three components:

2.2 What might you learn by taking part in it?

You may be interested in a career in teaching and in this case this module is an opportunity to find out whether this is suitable for you. If you apply for a PGCE course after graduation then having done this module will be a big plus in your record. The University of Birmingham now offers a PGCE in Computer Science as does Newman University.

Even if teaching is not where you are headed, the module offers the opportunity to learn some unique transferable skills, many of which are difficult to exercise in the other modules:

  • Public speaking and communication skills
  • Organisational and interpersonal skills
  • Time management skills
  • Team-working
  • Working in a challenging and unpredictable environment
  • Staff responsibilities and conduct
  • Addressing the needs of individuals
  • The ability to improvise
  • Giving (and taking) feedback
  • Handling difficult and potentially disruptive situations

2.3. Your Time in the Classroom

Every placement is different and it is not possible to predict the arrangements at the school you will be working. Primary schools are very different from secondary schools, and the interpretation and implementation of the computer science syllabus depends on school and teacher. In general, schools are reluctant to put you in GCSE or A-level classes because they are very cautious about disturbing students' preparations for the national exams. Consequently, most placements are in Year 9 (age 14) classes or lower.

As a rough guide, you can expect the placement to evolve in three phases:

  • Phase I: Getting to know the school, the teacher, and the classes; ad hoc involvement in the practical sessions.
  • Phase II: Performing an agreed role in the lessons; taking on specific responsibilities as agreed with the teacher.
  • Phase III: Being a reliable colleague to the class teacher(s). Crucially, as this is a requirement, teaching three lessons on a topic agreed with the school. The length of a "lesson" differs from school to school but if it's less than 45 minutes then you will find it difficult to get your material across to the class; in that case ask for a "double lesson". Ideally your lessons are delivered to the same class but this can be difficult in schools with two-week timetables. Early and careful planning is advised!

In addition to regular teaching, you may be asked to run a lunch-time or after-school club, or you may be asked to offer training to the other teachers, or you may be invited to give a presentation to sixth formers on life as a university student.

3. Assessment

The assessment for this module consists of four components:

  • A weekly school experience log, including lesson observations and evaluation of own activities, to be submitted weekly via Canvas (20%);
  • An end-of-module report, around 2000 words (3000 words for MSc students) (30%), to be submitted after the Easter Break via Canvas;
  • A 10-15 minute oral presentation (30%) in front of fellow students and two academics during Revision Week;
  • An assessment by the teacher, moderated by the module coordinator (20%).
The overall aim is to assess the following:
  • your ability to acquire and develop key skills;
  • your knowledge of a working in an educational environment;
  • your ability to observe and analyse;
  • your ability to apply knowledge in ways relevant to your environment in an enthusiastic and helpful manner;
  • your ability to critically evaluate your own progress.
You will not be assessed on whether or not you have shown yourself to be a potential teacher.

3.1 The weekly school experience log (20%)

At the end of each school visit, you are expected to accurately log your experiences, as this will help provide evidence of your progress, and can be cross-referenced to the teacher-mentor's views during the report-writing process. As well as recording lesson observations, your log should provide details of your individual contributions in the form of a "reflective commentary." For example, when supporting an individual pupil or group of pupils in order to complete a task set by the teacher, describe the task and your role, reflect on how you helped pupils, and consider what - if anything - you would do differently if you were asked to repeat this sort of activity again. Later on in the term, you may be able to take a more proactive part in some lessons. You should evaluate how well pupils react to your own input, whether that was an activity you have developed, or a demonstration or explanation given by you in front of a whole class.

You are entitled to keep your Log confidential from the teacher-mentor, but it will be assessed weekly by me.

Here is some general advice about filling out the Log Sheets:

  • Be selective in what you choose to write about. You are not expected to be able to report everything you do in the classroom, but you are expected to select the experiences that you can write about in a reflective/evaluative way. You will be assessed on quality rather than quantity of contribution and reporting.
  • Do not merely describe what you did. Each example of your work should follow the process of what you did, why you did it, and what happened as a result. You should also include suggestions of how you might improve what you did the next time.
  • Do not be vague in writing up your evidence. Sing your own praises and don't be afraid to say 'I did this', 'I did that'. Do not write passively as though anyone could have done what you are writing about.
  • Ensure that you carefully check spelling, punctuation and grammar; and that meaning is clear before submitting your work for assessment.

Important: The log sheets are due weekly, by Monday, 11 o'clock. Please submit them via Canvas.

Late penalties: If the log sheet is late, a mark of zero will be recorded.

Marking scheme:

  • Formal structure. Your name, name of the school, number of week, class teacher, year of students. Also structure and length of the report, spelling and grammar.
  • Clarity of description. Remember that you do not need to report everything, but what you choose to report should be done clearly and lucidly.
  • Analysis. Your critical and reflective comments on what you did or what you saw.
  • Contribution. What you did to make the class a success. (Clearly, this will grow as the semester progresses.)
Each of these aspects will be marked on a scale from 0 to 3. Good performance will normally be awarded two points. The third point is reserved for exceptional quality.

3.2 The end-of-module report (30%)

This report is meant to be written at the end of the semester, after the placement has finished. It is not meant to be a summary of the weekly reports! Instead, you should describe the project, or sequence of lectures, that you developed and delivered in the final three weeks. You should describe your initial ideas, how they were shaped in discussions with your tutor, and what the final lesson plans were (including a sample of the materials you used). You should then describe how the lessons went and how the pupils reacted to your teaching. You should reflect on your teaching and what you would do differently if you had to teach this subject again. You may also comment on the overall experience of taking part in this scheme. Hopefully, your weekly log sheets will prove useful when reflecting on that.

The report should be about 2000 words long, and is due Monday, 23rd April, at 11 o'clock. You should submit it via Canvas.

Late penalties: For every day that the report is late, 5 out of 100 will be deducted until 0 is reached

Marking scheme:

  • Structure of the report, spelling and grammar.
  • Choice of topic for lessons.
  • Lesson plans.
  • Development strategy employed.
  • Critical reflection.
Each of these aspects will be marked on a scale from 0 to 6. Good performance will normally be awarded four points. The last two points are reserved for exceptional performance. Note that I will not judge the actual success of your lessons but I will evaluate your lesson plans and your own critical assessment of your work.

Fourth Year MSci/MEng students can only enrol in the extended version of the module. This has an additional learning outcome: demonstrate an understanding of educational research as it pertains to Computer Science. This is assessed by an additional 1000 words in the end-of-module report which reports on and discusses a published piece of work from the area of computer science pedagogy. I will make suggestions and help with the selection. This part of the report will contribute 10% to the module mark while the 2000 words section that is common with the BSc version of the module will contribute 20%.

3.3 Presentation (30%)

You will have to give a short (10-15 minute) presentation to the rest of the class at some point in Revision Week (23rd - 27th April), the exact date will be determined once the rest of the timetable for that week has been established. You are free to base your presentation on your overall experience or on your own three lessons as described in your end-of-module report.

For MSci/MEng students the brief is exactly the same, in other words, your presentation should not include the findings of your investigation into educational research. This is to make it easier to compare the presentations among each other.

Marking scheme:

  • Structure of the presentation, slides (if used).
  • Content.
  • Delivery.
Each of these aspects will be marked on a scale from 0 to 10. Good performance will normally be awarded seven points. The last three points are reserved for exceptional performance.

3.4 Teacher-mentor report (20%)

As noted previously, a report will be written by the teacher-mentor. This will take place after you have completed your school-based half days. Questions which the teacher-mentor is expected to answer include the following:

  • Professionalism: attendance and punctuality
  • Subject knowledge
  • Interaction with pupils and contribution
  • Evaluation of the three lessons
  • Soliciting and acting on feedback
Teachers will be asked to mark each aspect with up to four points, and to justify their evaluation. You can see the questionnaire I am using here. The teacher evaluation will be moderated by me.

4. Classroom resources