The confidence gap: Nick Hodges from Moat Farm Junior strives to build teacher confidence with delivering the coding objectives

Discovery Education Coding

Posted on behalf of Nick Hodges –  ICT Manager, Moat Farm Junior, UK

In the spring term of 2014, with the changes to the National Curriculum for computing looming overhead, I wanted to be able to provide my students with an exciting coding experience that was both readily accessible and fun.

I had used Espresso products in the past and always found them to be a useful tool to have. I was made aware that Espresso were busy developing a series of coding lessons, linking nicely with the new primary curriculum for computing; hence I was eager to find out more. Thankfully, with their free trial of Discovery Education Coding (formerly known as Espresso Coding) ticking all the boxes, we as a school were to keen to trial it. Initially, we started with a sample group of children providing them with the opportunity to experience coding first hand. Following its successful trial, we then opted to subscribe to Discovery Education Coding, rolling it out across the whole school.

During the trial period, teaching staff across the school were able to ‘test out’ the coding lessons that Discovery Coding offered. As the ICT Manager I quickly realised that a high proportion of the staff felt both reluctant and uncomfortable in delivering the content effectively. Many of them were seeking me out to ask for training sessions in order to help develop their coding subject knowledge. In stark comparison however, the children showed a real fascination and wanted to work their way through all the available content as quickly as possible; many of them appeared confident and knowledgeable about the subject content.

The lack of confidence of our teaching staff meant that the majority of them felt unsure as to how to guide their pupils through the coding process. They allowed the children to treat the coding units as a game, observing them to complete each step as quickly as possible rather than taking the time to ensure they fully understood what they were doing and why they were doing it. After showing the children which unit they would be working on, some staff would simply leave the children to ‘play’ as they didn’t feel they could offer the answers, advice or next steps to their learning. Following lesson observations and learning walks it was becoming increasingly apparent that the coding lessons were a challenge for most of our teachers.

Consequently we needed to do something about it. Teacher voice confirmed my findings, highlighting that a high percentage of our staff knew very little about coding and felt like they were struggling with the delivery of the new ICT curriculum, in particular the coding aspect of it.

By referencing Discovery Education Coding’s online resources, I designed visual step-by-step guides alongside a series of PowerPoints for each unit. I planned in the use of iPads or MacBooks to help our staff deliver the content. I felt it was important for the Powerpoint presentations to include and cover all aspects of the computational thinking models; further developing how the children think when coding, thus giving them purpose to their activity. The visual step-by-step guides had an added benefit in the respect that all staff, including supply, were able to pick it up without having any prior knowledge and teach a lesson that engaged, motivated and challenged the children.

After re-trialing the coding lessons taught previously, the resources proved extremely successful. Staff commented on the fact that they did not need to read around the content beforehand and they felt more confident in their delivery of the coding units. Overall, staff feedback was extremely positive; many said they felt that the step-by-step guides had enabled them to deliver quality coding lessons with maximum impact on the children’s learning. The security of having the PowerPoint presentations to refer to, highlight key vocabulary and share expected outcomes was a particular benefit to most staff. They also liked how the easy to follow guides meant they no longer had to spend time trying to revise the basics of coding prior to teaching it, thus freeing them up to undertake other time-consuming aspects of their jobs

As a result, the teaching and learning of coding lessons at Moat Farm Junior have taken an extremely positive turn. Staff are now able to guide their pupils through the content of each unit, making them aware of their next steps. Instead of rushing, the children now spend time reflecting on their work, an expectation of the computational thinking model, which is embedded throughout the PowerPoint presentations.

At Moat Farm Junior we are constantly looking at ways to improve and provide our children with access to the best computing curriculum that we as an institution can offer. Following the successful implementation of coding across the school, we truly believe that Discovery Education Coding has given us the perfect starting point to develop our ICT curriculum to the highest standard possible.

Find out more about Discovery Education Coding
(currently only available for UK schools)