computing HTTCS programming teaching and learning

Bitesize PCK sessions.

Tweet from @ComputingHubFT

Coming soon from me, three short, online sessions focussing on some really powerful techniques you can use in the computing classroom, on behalf of TeachComputing, Cheshire and the Wirral hub.

Mon 27 March, 4-5pm online:
Storytelling and analogy.

In his book Why don’t students like school? Daniel T Willingham says stories are treated as preferential information, they help with retention. Learn how to bring stories and analogy into your computing teaching to improve retention. Book here: CA303 F79

Cross-topic teaching…

Learners understand a  subject much better if the links between concepts are made explicit, and they are encouraged to make their own links either within the subject or across the curriculum. We discover some links that you can make, and activities that make these links explicit.

Wed 29 March, 4-5pm online: Cross-topic and synoptic teaching:

Book here CA303 F80

Thu 30 March 4-5pm, online: Misconceptions:

Misconceptions can seriously hinder learners’ progress, and studies have shown that teachers who are aware of common misconceptions and actively seek to address them are more effective. Join us to become more misconception-aware.
Book here: CA303 F78

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#LEARN computing general HTTCS programming teaching and learning

I Love Computing 2023

Updated with slide PDFs!

Last Saturday, 25th February I spoke at “I Love Computing 2023” a FREE Festival of Computing CPD in London, details at

I was honoured to be among some of the biggest names in Computing education today, including Jane Waite, Sue Sentance, Miles Berry, Paul Curzon, Phil Bagge and Elli Narewska.

My two talks were on the following (after the ad break…) NOW WITH PDF LINKS TO THE CONTENT.

The Computing Ofsted Research Review and preparing for a Deep Dive

Understand what OFSTED are looking for. What are declarative and procedural knowledge anyway? How do I deliver the National Curriculum at KS4 if they don’t all take the subject? Alan served on the working group that created the Ofsted Research Review and has interviewed successful OFSTED Deep Dive recipients. Attend this talk to help prepare for OFSTED and be relaxed about their next visit. UPDATE – PDF available to download below.

Beyond Mnemonics – teaching for mastery through PCK – a GCSE Computer Science booster

Do you feel you are teaching for “surface learning”? Are you using tricks and schemes such as mnemonics to get them through the exams, and would rather teach for mastery but don’t know how? Alan’s book “How to Teach Computer Science” is all about the hinterland, the background knowledge that illuminates the subject and helps you teach it with confidence, and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) – the “how to teach” knowledge that helps you succeed. Alan will explain why this “hinterland” is important and what PCK is and how to acquire it, and how to use both for mastery learning. UPDATE: PDF available to download below:

Offers and freebies

All attendees go into the prize draw for a copy of my book, and there are other, far more desirable prizes available too! At the event I will also reveal a discount code for 30% off either of my books, generously donated by the publisher John Catt Educational (part of Hachette). Update – read my PDFs for the code, available for one more week!

Video recordings of my talks from last year’s online conference are saved here, where I spoke on the “hinterland” and on demystifying computer networks, and if you enjoy those, I hope to see you in Tottenham this Saturday.

If you are grateful for my blog, please buy me a coffee at, thanks!
computing programming teaching and learning

Block Model

Learning programming has several challenges:

  • It is concept-rich, leading to cognitive overload
  • It balances comprehension with coding experience
  • It demands persistence and resilience
  • Learners need a secure mental model of computation


If you haven’t done so already, you should study the “PRIMM” model of programming instruction, which suggests five stages of interacting with new code: Predict, Run, Investigate, Modify, Make. You can read more about PRIMM in the Teach Computing quick read at and on the blog

The block model

During the “I” phase of PRIMM, while investigating the code, students should be encouraged to ask questions about it to deepen their understanding. You can prompt them with questions such as:

  • What would happen if you swap lines 2 and 3?
  • What would happen if you give it input of ___?
  • What if you change the symbol on line 5 from > to < ?
  • Line 5 shows a condition-controlled loop, why do we call it this?
  • What will make the loop end?

We can check we are encouraging valuable thought across the whole range of programming skills using an approach called the “block model”. Devised by Carsten Schulte in 2008, the block model has a grid with two axes, one showing the size of the programming element under consideration, and the other the distinction between the structure, execution and function of the program:

If we map our questions and activities onto the block model, we can then identify any gaps. Adding more tasks in those gaps will ensure that we cover the whole grid. In this way we ensure students are thinking hard about the full range of skills required to thoroughly understand a program.

Find out more

Visit to find out more about fostering program comprehension, or read the other principles at And subscribe to Hello World to read much more about computing pedagogy every two months:

The block model is also explained in “Computer Science Education” edited by Sue Sentance and the new version is available now for around £25 here I summarise this principle and many other programming pedagogies in my book “How to Teach Computer Science” available for under £15 here: