Naace and TLM have developed formal qualifications in Open Systems Computing which have been validated by Ofqual. Please note, this article is also posted on the TLM website here.
TLM is an Ofqual Accredited Awarding Organisation set up to make assessment more relevant to motivating raised attainment and to reduce costs.
NAACE is The National Association for the Advancement of Computer Education. It is the professional organisation for educators and companies interested in the use of digital technologies in education.
TLM and Naace have established a partnership to provide new qualifications in Open Systems Computing at Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 in the Qualifications and Credit Framework.
Level 1 is equivalent to grades D-G in GCSE and is similar to the level of the new key stage 3 (KS3) programmes of study for computing. (about level 4/5 in the old national curriculum level system in KS3). The level 1 qualification is regarded by the DfE as a progression route to the level 2 qualification. It is therefore logical to think of it as a preparation in KS3 for level 2 study. The level 1 computing qualification is graded Pass, Merit, Distinction, Distinction*.
Level 2 is equivalent to grades A*-C in GCSE.
Level 3 is equivalent to grades A*-E in A level.
Pedagogy and progression
TLM qualifications are designed to motivate higher attainment with coherent progression routes from entry level attainment through to university entrance. They are designed by the same people at the same time to form a coherent whole. There is no reference to age. The aim is to provide recognition of attainment when a candidate is ready, not at some arbitrary time determined without any specific educational rationale.
Individuals mature and progress at different rates and they have different natural aptitudes. This is reflected in the planning that underpins these qualifications. Possible scenarios for progression include starting level 1 in year 7 and allowing those capable of achieving at level 2 by the end of KS3 to do so while supporting those taking longer to achieve level 1 to do so. Professional teacher/assessors make the decisions about who is ready to move up a level and when. If focused in KS4, level 1 and 2 can be taught much the same as a GCSE would be. For high attainers that can achieve a high grade at level 2 by the end of year 10, they can start a level 3 Award. This has been designed to fit into year 11 and provides level 3 credit that can be extended to a certificate that is half the size of an A level, or a diploma that is the size of a full A level. The aim is to smooth out what is often a very difficult step change between level 2 and level 3 work.
Vocational or academic?
Is computing a vocational or academic activity? We think that trying to compartmentalise it is damaging especially too early. Computing technology has a technical vocational dimension that requires specific competences for practitioners to be effective. Theoretical knowledge and understanding underpins transfer of effectiveness and responsiveness to change. Both these dimensions are important in a 21st century work place. The design of qualification assessment reflects this.
The INGOT assessment model is based on the rationale above.
There is a coursework element based on matching evidence of competence directly to assessment criteria that underpin the specified learning outcomes. This is derived from the vocational sector where the purpose of qualifications is to check that people in the work place have basic levels of competence. There is no grading of coursework, the aim is to check minimum levels of competence in keeping with the overall level descriptor. All candidates must prove their basic competence against the criteria by providing evidence to their teacher assessor with external independent sampling.
When the coursework requirements have been met they are then entitled to take a grading exam. The purpose of academic examinations is largely to control the progression routes and destinations of candidates. The examinations set as part of the INGOT assessment model are designed to differentiate academic attainment and at level 2 and 3 inform candidates of the progresson routes that they are likely to manage successfully and which not. Candidates that meet all the coursework assessment criteria are awarded 30 marks. They then take an exam that provides 70 marks. The questions at the start of the examination are less demanding at the start becoming increasingly demanding by the end. Candidates graded A/A* at level 2 are likely to be successful in an academic level 3 course. Candidates graded B could be successful but they might find it tough and candidates graded C will probably be ill-advised to embark on a purely academic course. Candidates achieving below level 2 grade C will probably need further study and practice to access level 2 or level 3 academic courses. Any candidates completing the coursework competently would normally be expected to achieve at least the number of marks in the examination to gain a grade C. If for a particular assessor many students are meetng the coursework requirements but not achieving sufficient marks for a C in the exam, we need to find out why? This enables a low cost way of moderating coursework and identifying CPD needs.
The level 3 award is 100% coursework. The reason for this is to provide a more flexible transition to level 3. The level 3 award coursework is a subset of that of the certificate and diploma. This enables a very able student to carry on with computing with a range of possible time commitments while studying, for example, mathematics, further mathematics and physics. Such candidates might well drop computing altogether if it meant having to do a full A level in a two year period alongside subjects that are to them a higher priority. A weaker candidate might take two years to gain the certificate or the award with a mix of other L2 and/or 3 qualifications
The INGOT assessment model is supported by an extensive range of cloud based technologies. The Mark Book site is mandatory. All assessors must have accounts on this site and all candidates are linked to their assessor or assessors here. They are also linked to the assessment criteria. As a minimum, assessors record their judgements about the candidates’ competence to meet the criteria by entering a letter S for secure against the criteria. When all the criteria are designated S in a unit they click a button to request the award. The Account Manager will then sample evidence. If there are deficiencies in the evidence the Account Manager will ask the Assessor to ensure that all candidates have provided sufficient evidence and will then resample. With some experience this should be a simple and low overhead procedure and requires no paper at all as long as the assessor ensures candidates provide their evidence in digital formats. To further support this the optional community learning site provides a wide range of tools. This enables pupils to self and peer assess and pass their evidence to their assessor who can approve or deny their assessments. If approved the on-line mark book is automatically up dated. If denied the assessor can leave a note telling the pupil what they need to do to make good. Beyond this there are progress tracking and reporting options based on the assessment data and facilities for blogging. The INGOT community learning site is provided as free value added. It is built in Drupal, an Open Source Content Management System with custom modules and content types to match the specific needs of the assessment model. Using it makes the possibility for individualised learning and more pupil centred assessment significantly more manageable. Not every school, department or teacher is ready for this so it is not mandatory, just encouraged.
TLM/NAACE centres are called INGOT Academies if they adopt the TLM/NAACE subscription model. With the subscription model schools pay an annual subscription to then be able to use a qualification family throughout the school. This employs economies of scale to significantly reduce the cost of the qualifications when compared to other GCSE and A level equivalents and enables the flexibility to register students on courses when they are ready rather than at any particular time. If there are likely to be insufficient candidates to make the economies of scale work in the school’s favour the school can pay a centre fee and individual candidate registration much more like traditional methods.
All centres and academies must appoint a Principal Assessor who accepts responsibility for standards in the centre and signs an agreement to this effect. The Principal Assessor can appoint assessors by making accounts for them on the Markbook site. Assessors are assigned an Account Manager who samples their work and provides a first point of contact between NAACE/TLM and the Assessor. All assessors must sign an agreement to uphold standards on the Markbook site when they first log in.
This structure for quality assurance enables more autonomy to be delegated to assessors reducing the bureaucratic overhead and enabling teachers greater professional freedom. For those that don’t trust teachers, the externally set and marked examination together with the way it is linked to the coursework marks acts as an additional form of quality assurance.
TLM/NAACE will need help from the Naace community on several levels. We need people to tell schools about the benefits of what we can offer, train assessors and act as moderators. There will also be opportunities to provide curriculum support and training. We will provide training for Naace members that want to take advantage of these opportunities and we are open to suggestions for ways of further developing support for computer education in schools related to high quality
qualifications and assessment for learning.