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Going for Gold

The NQT support at this school is excellent, and I’m taking advantage. Not only do I have a standard induction programme including NQT mentoring and CPD but… a Senior Management Team (SMT) link person designated to me, plus optional extra CPD and coaching. The latter means I get an informal 15-minute observation and 15-minute debrief, every week. This is almost as much mentoring as I was getting last year on ITT, and it’s incredibly useful. I’m going to share some recent coaching with you.

The target this week was Learning Objectives and Outcomes. My coach, Andy – an assistant head whose subject is PE – wanted me to put more effort into designing the outcomes and sharing them with the class. Also, they must be clearly graded and I should communicate the grade of outcome to the students, with reference to their target grade. I’m not sure if it was because Andy is a sports coach or just because Rio 2012 has just ended, but I decided to place bronze, silver and gold medals on my slides and worksheets! The idea being that the bronze medal work should be achievable by all, the silver by some, and the gold by a few top-target pupils.

The topic was Decomposition and Algorithm Design. The task was to decide what makes a strong password (itself a side-learning point), decompose this problem into small steps (must be memorable but not guessable, build it up from two or three components unrelated to each other such as colour, animal and number…) and then write an algorithm to create it. I wanted them to write the algorithm in four different ways: English, Flowchart, Pseudocode and, finally, Python. With slides and an example of each on a worksheet I had plenty of scaffolding, but I thought that getting as far as Pseudocode would be a stretch in 60 minutes, so I invented a Platinum medal for the actual coding. I needn’t have bothered.

The “medal effect” as I am now calling it was amazing. Everyone wanted a Gold or Platinum medal (even though they didn’t actually exist as medals, they were purely notional!). Here is the LO slide:

los

I asked the class to decide what medal they were going to aim for. Not one said bronze! So off we went, and in under an hour, 17 of 26 had written some code to generate strong passwords. Here is a sample program, from a student targeting a GCSE grade 6. She had already written the flowchart and pseudocode…

IMAG0263.gif

I am a convert to the “medal effect”. The next stage may be to include the students in the actual target setting. Perhaps I’ll have them write the outcomes and place the medals next time?

By mraharrisoncs

Head of Computing, Manchester.

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