The GCSE Computing Award from OCR, J275, notorious for a compromised assessment in 2014 may have “done it again” but this time instead of solutions being released online by third parties OCR appear to have done it to themselves?

There are a number of implications arising from this potential faux pas not least the often returned to question of the “glass wall” between those who examine and those who offer support and guidance from within the Awarding Body, surely OfQual will have to revisit this?

However, by far the most immediate and therefore most important implication is, what does this mean for this years’ Year 11 whose work from much of the last 12 months is currently being marked by their teachers before being moderated by OCR? What should the teacher do who, having a copy of the text book in which a solution has been published, recognises the work of their pupils as being extensively based on that worked example? Should they mark them down for using external guidance? If the teacher doesn’t will OCR then mark them down in the moderation process?

Some are saying online that there is no issue and that because only one out of the 3 OCR Controlled Assessment Problems in the unit A452 is compromised, student numbers affected will be minimal. However, what does this mean for the rest of the students entered for this examination who, in addressing the problem they chose, did not have the opportunity to examine a worked example from the Chief Examiner before they attempted the solution? Significant questions of equity of opportunity and reliability of results are raised that, so far, have not been answered in public by OCR.

In 2014 OCR, when presented with an external problem with remarkably similar characteristics, i.e. solutions to Controlled Assessments were leaked online, acted swiftly and decisively to address the issue. Will we see the same leadership when the issue has been of their own making this time? I hope so.

This issue is examined further by the excellent Merlin John here and by the BBC here but, how are you and/or your students affected?

Returning to the more long term implications, what does this issue reveal for the controlled assessment of Computing going forward? Is it the case that, in the realm of coding, there is very little that is “new under the sun” and with a well established and frankly, beneficial, principle of sharing previously worked out solutions, students would be better served if we assessed different things? Perhaps headlines like this will in fact be the death knell for practical work at GCSE. I’m pretty sure that political opinion, still based on previously discredited ICT qualifications, would love to see it go and everyone return to 100% final examination. What would this mean for our students? 

If you do spot published advice and guidance that supports teachers and students with this concerning issue do add a link in a comment to this article meanwhile, I will write on behalf of the Naace community to OCR and OfQual inviting comment. Similarly, if you have thoughts about the wider assessment implications for Computing at advanced (GCSE) level I would be interested to read of them here. Thank you.

2 responses to “OCR GCSE (Un)Controlled Assessment?

  1. I have moved my year 10 to CIE iGCSE from OCR to avoid coursework. I am stuck with it at A level. I think it panders to the gender bias in that boys are generally very good at coursework because they have been coding all night for years making games etc. Girls or any student who is new to coding and computing are at a disadvantage as the projects are quite demanding and require skills beyond the scope of the main syllabus. It puts people off who are not natural coders. So in the end it does not make for an inclusive qualification and that’s partly why there is still a small % of girls who take it up especially at A level and degree level.

    1. Interesting Adrian and, I have heard that thought of gender bias mentioned before. However, if we believe that Computing is a subject that involves learners solving problems to a purpose then actually making something in the course of studying it is highly desirable? Perhaps the introduced bias is more that we make the practical work a (reduced in current specifications) cornerstone of assessment? I do not think these circumstances are going to change very quickly and will be interested to see the debate and thinking develop; I wonder what the thinking and experience of others both members and more might be?

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