To Assess or Not to Assess: Tensions Negotiated in Six Years of Teaching Teachers about Computational Thinking


Daniel Hickmott and Elena Prieto-Rodriguez

In Informatics in Education, Volume 17, Issue 2

Published September 2018


Coding and computational thinking have recently become compulsory skills in many school systems globally. Teaching these new skills presents a challenge for many teachers. A notable example of professional development designed using Constructionist principles to address this challenge is ScratchEd. Upon reflecting on her experiences designing and running ScratchEd, Karen Brennan identified five tensions faced by professional development providers, and proposed that these tensions could be used for scrutinising and critiquing professional development. In this paper we analyse, through the lens of Brennan's tensions, the process we have followed to design, evaluate and improve professional development. We argue that while we have experienced the same tensions, the extent to which we assess learning is a new tension that extends those identified by Brennan. There are strong reasons to assess teachers' knowledge, however, quantitative measures of learning could be at odds with Constructionism: as Papert argued in Mindstorms, constructionist educators should study their learning environments as anthropologists. Consequently, we have called this new tension the tension between anthropology and assessment.

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