Assessment in senior cycle involves gathering, interpreting and using information about the processes and outcomes of learning. It takes different forms and is used for a variety of purposes. It is used to determine the appropriate route for students through a differentiated curriculum, to identify specific areas of difficulty or strength for a given student and to test and certify achievement. Assessment supports and improves learning by helping students and teachers to identify next steps in the teaching and learning process.
As well as varied teaching strategies, varied assessment strategies will support learning and provide information that can be used as feedback so that teaching and learning activities can be modified in ways that best suit individual learners. By setting appropriate and engaging tasks, asking higher-order questions and giving feedback that promotes learner autonomy, assessment will support learning and summarise achievement.
There are several important aspects of computer science assessments to consider: the use of authentic tasks, the breadth of concepts being assessed, and the special role computers can play in delivering instruction and measuring performance. Compared to other subjects, computer science provides a unique opportunity to take advantage of online learning and computerised assessment. Students can create programs such as games, apps and simulations within an environment that also collects data, analyses achievement, and communicates progress to both students and teachers.
Project-based/portfolio assessment of coursework can measure many of the computer science learning outcomes associated with performance. Coursework assessment provides students with opportunities to demonstrate their understanding in multiple ways that highlight their creativity, interests, and understanding.
Assessment for certification is based on the aim, objectives, and learning outcomes of this specification. Differentiation at the point of assessment is achieved through examinations at two levels—Ordinary level and Higher level.
There are two components to the assessment of Leaving Certificate Computer Science: (i) an end-of-course computer-based examination and (ii) coursework. Both components reflect the relationship between the application of skills and the theoretical content of the specification.
The end-of-course assessment may comprise questions of varied format and type. The questions will assess both the core concepts and the practices and principles of computer science. The questions will be based on the learning outcomes in the specification; however, any question may address more than one learning outcome, or require students to combine knowledge and skills from across several areas of the specification.
The coursework assessment will require students to demonstrate proficiency in course content and skills that are not easily assessed by the end-of-course examination. The assessment will require students to create an innovative computational artefact, and to report on the work and process involved. Students must acknowledge, through appropriate citations and references, the source or author of all information or evidence taken from someone else’s work. It is anticipated that student work for both components will be submitted electronically and will be marked by the State Examinations Commission (SEC).
The assessment of both components will be aligned with the objectives of the specification, and assess the extent to which students:
There are two assessment components at each level, an end-of-course examination (70%) and coursework (30%).
Table 3: Overview of assessment
The end-of-course examination will be made up of a range of question types. It is anticipated the exam will be computer-based. The questions will require students to demonstrate knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, evaluation and creativity appropriate to each level. The key skills are embedded in the learning outcomes and will be assessed in the context of the learning outcomes. The examination will assess:
The examination will have sections covering questions that address:
Table 4: End-of-course examination assessment criteria
designs programs that do not solve problems that they were designed to solve. Presents limited evaluation of some computer systems without making judgements about these or presenting conclusions.
The coursework assessment will use practical situations to assess how students design data structures and develop algorithms, integrate ideas, test hypotheses, and explore alternative approaches. It will be similar to the structure of the strand 3 applied learning tasks that students complete during the two years of the course. However, the coursework assessment must be carried out individually. Students will not be permitted to work in groups for the coursework assessment.
In January of the second year of the course, the State Examinations Commission (SEC) will set a task in which students are required to generate a computational artefact in response to a brief set out by the SEC. The time-period for completion of the coursework will be set out in the brief. A period of 6-8 weeks is anticipated, after which the completed task is submitted, electronically, to the SEC for marking. The date for submission will be set by the SEC each year.
Table 5: Coursework assessment criteria