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

The University of Birmingham - School of Computer Science

Teaching Computer Science in Schools

Academic Year 2020/21

1. Staff Details

Professor Achim Jung
Office hours

2. Overview of the Module

2.0 How is this module affected by the Covid-19 crisis?

It may not be possible to run the module at all!

It may be that only very few schools take part in the scheme!

It may not be possible to work at a school!

If placement at a school is not possible, you may need to assist children and/or teachers remotely.

Because of the above, you may have to switch to a different module at short notice!

2.1 How does it (normally) work?

This is a 20 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:

  • Training sessions in the Autumn Term. (Participation in the training sessions is compulsory.)
  • 8 full-day school visits during the Spring Term. (No visit during schools' half term holidays.
  • Weekly logs, end-of-module report, and poster presentation (see below).

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
  • Teaching during a pandemic

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) and taking on autonomous teaching tasks.

In addition to work in the classroom, you are asked to run a lunch-time or after-school club, and to implement a programme of work for the club. This year, this may not be possible.

Because of the pandemic, you may have to support the school and the children remotely.

3. Assessment

The assessment for this module consists of four components:

  • Brief weekly logs, to be submitted via Canvas (18%);
  • An end-of-module report, around 2000 words (32%), to be submitted after the Easter Break via Canvas (3000 words, 42% for MSci students, see below);
  • A poster presentation (30%) describing the extra-curricular project during Revision Week (20% for MSci students);
  • 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.

3.1 The weekly log (18%)

You are required to record your nine placements by filling in a log sheet after every visit. Here is a template in docx and in LaTeX format. This should take you not much longer than 10 minutes. Submission is via Canvas (Mondays, 11 o'clock). For each complete logsheet two marks will be awarded.

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

3.2 The end-of-module report (32%)

This report is meant to be written at the end of the semester, after the placement has finished, and should be based on your weekly records. You should describe which contributions you were able to make, and how you adapted your approach from one week to the next in response to teacher and student feedback. You should evaluate your work in the school and the contribution you were able to make. What would you do differently if you had to do it again? You may also want to comment on the overall experience of taking part in this scheme.

The report should be about 2000 words long, and is due Monday, 27th 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 (8%)
  • Your contributions to the school (8%)
  • Development strategy from session to session (8%)
  • Critical reflection (8%)
Each of these aspects will be marked on a scale from 0 to 8. Good performance will normally be awarded five points. The last 3 points are reserved for exceptional performance. Note that I will not judge the actual success of your lessons but I will evaluate your professionalism 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.

3.3 Poster presentation (30% for BSc, 20% for MSci)

You should prepare a poster (A2) that describes the extra-curricular project you undertook together with your partner. I will organise an evening at which your posters will be displayed and to which your host teachers will be invited.

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. However, the mark will be scaled to 20%.

Marking scheme:

  • Visual quality of the poster (10%)
  • How the content of the extra-curricular project is conveyed (10%)
  • How the students' engagement with the extra-curricular project is conveyed (10%)
The three 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 placement. 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 extra-curricular project
  • Soliciting and acting on feedback
Teachers will be asked to mark each aspect on a scale from F to A*, and to justify their evaluation. You can see the questionnaire I am using here. The teacher evaluation will be moderated by me.

3.5 Attendance and absences

This is an unusual module in that attendance at all of its parts is mandatory: training sessions, school visits, and poster presentation.

  • If you are unable to attend a training session (autumn semester) then you need to inform me in advance and with a valid reason. Attendance sheets are kept at these sessions. Repeated unexcused absence means that I will take you off the module.
  • Schools may need to cancel a placement day for a number of reasons: OFSTED inspection, Teacher Training Day, emergency, etc. Such days must be compensated for by arranging an additional day later on.
  • You may fall ill or have a family emergency: In this case you have two options: Re-arrange the missed day later on or obtain a waiver from the School's Welfare Team (as you would for other assessments).
  • For any day that you have missed and not obtained a waiver, 11% of the module mark will be deducted.

4. Classroom resources