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:
- understand how computing technology presents new ways to address problems
- use computational thinking to analyse problems, and to design, develop and evaluate solutions
- can read, write, test and modify computer programs
- understand how computers work and the component parts of computer systems and how they interrelate, including software, data, hardware, communications, and users
- understand the evolution of computing technology and appreciate the ethical and social implications of the use of computing technology in contemporary and future social issues
- work independently, communicate effectively, and understand the factors that influence collaboration and teamwork
- become responsible, competent, confident, reflective and creative users of computing technology.
Structure of assessment for certification
There are two assessment components at each level, an end-of-course examination (70%) and coursework (30%).
Table 3: Overview of assessment
- Computer-based assessment of learning outcomes
- One computational artefact with report
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:
- knowledge and recall of facts, principles and methods relating to computer science
- application of knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts of computer science, including abstraction, logic, algorithms and data representation, and how to analyse problems in computational terms
- ability to write code and to compile, test and debug program code
- ability to evaluate computer systems that solve problems, making reasoned judgements about these and presenting conclusions
- problem solving based on integration, analysis and evaluation of qualitative and quantitative information and data, using knowledge gained from all three strands
- understanding of the ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of Computer Science, and of how computer science contributes to the social and economic development of society.
The examination will have sections covering questions that address:
- Computer science topics across the entire specification
- Practical questions requiring the use of a programming language
- Questions based on contexts and drawn from across different areas of the specification.
Table 4: End-of-course examination assessment criteria
|High level of achievement
||Moderate level of achievement
||Low level of achievement
|demonstrates a thorough knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts of Leaving Certificate Computer Science with few significant omissions.
||demonstrates a good knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts of Leaving Certificate Computer Science
||demonstrates a limited knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts of Leaving Certificate Computer Science.
|consistently applies knowledge and understanding of the principles and concepts of computer science to problem solving in both familiar and new contexts using appropriate computational thinking methods.
||applies knowledge and understanding of principles and concepts of computer science to problem solving in both familiar and some new contexts using appropriate computational thinking methods.
||selects appropriate facts and principles to solve problems concerning familiar material using a limited range of computational thinking methods.
|is able to write, compile, test and debug program code in a manner that eliminates almost all errors.
||is able to write, compile, test and debug program code with some errors.
||only has a limited ability to write compile, test and debug program code.
|consistently designs, programs and evaluates computer systems that solve problems, making reasoned judgements about these and presenting conclusions.
||designs programs and evaluates some computer systems that solve problems, making judgements about these and presenting conclusions.
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.
|demonstrates a thorough knowledge and understanding of the ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of computer science, and of how computer science contributes to her/his personal life and to the social and economic development of society.
||demonstrates a good knowledge and understanding of the ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of computer science, and of how computer science contributes to her/his personal life and to the social and economic development of society.
||demonstrates a limited knowledge and understanding of the ethical, historical, environmental and technological aspects of computer science, and of how computer science contributes to her/his personal life and to the social and economic development of society.
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
| High level of achievement
|| Moderate level of achievement
|| Low level of achievement
|systematically breaks down problems and filters out unnecessary information and can explain the processes involved. Uses innovative thinking in design and development.
||identifies problems/things that can be solved. Uses innovative thinking in design and development.
||engages with limited aspects of the problem. Avoids problems/challenges that have more than one step or part to solving them. May unintentionally over-complicate problems.
|independently designs, models, tests, debugs and refines solutions (using a test plan and data where appropriate), and chooses an appropriate way to represent solutions.
||iteratively develops, tests, and debugs solutions.
||expresses ideas at a basic level. Submits the first working solution as the finished product. Testing, debugging and refinement of solutions is done in a linear fashion.
|consistently displays curiosity to exhaustively investigate and analyse a broad range of appropriate problems/solutions.
||deals with complexity and with open-ended problems.
||requires a plan and clear expectations or deliverables. Follows instructions and is limited in their self-direction.
|independently identifies and acts on patterns in problems/solutions. Independently seeks out pre-existing solutions, transferring ideas and/or solutions from one problem context to another.
||adapts existing knowledge or solutions to solve new problems and weighs outcomes carefully.
||application of previous learning to new problems is limited.
|celebrates ambiguity and having different interpretations. Compares the performance of different solutions that solve the same problem.
||shows an ability to tolerate ambiguity in both problems and solutions.
||uses pre-learned solutions to attempt to solve new problems. Has difficulty accepting ambiguity in problems or their solutions.
Assessment programming languages