Connor Toms, Computer Science Subject Advisor
Before joining OCR I introduced a new computing course in my school. Reflecting on this process, I thought it would be useful to share with you the things that were important to me and my students.
Becoming a new teacher of computer science and IT can be a daunting endeavour. Rapid growth in technology development impacts what we teach to students and how we teach it. We want to ensure that our pupils get value from time in the classroom. It is also important that they leave school with valued and relevant progression opportunities.
Choosing the right course for our students is challenging. However, it is also rewarding when we see the engagement of our students once the course starts.
My first focus was learning about the qualifications on offer. I saw that OCR offers a range of CPD and networking events, with each course offering support for a different point in my journey.
At this stage I was drawn to the Choosing OCR events. These led me through the course fundamentals and helped me make an informed decision about which course was the right choice for my computing curriculum.
They also showed the resources and support that would be available to me once I started teaching.
In addition to the CPD event, there is also a “New to OCR section” on the qualification pages which includes a summary brochure of the computing qualifications.
Because I was moving from another awarding organisation, I was worried about the content differences and whether I would need to adapt my lessons. What I found really useful was that the A Level and GCSE Computer Science webpages included a document on the differences in content.
The CPD and website support really helped boost my confidence about changing awarding organisation. However, I would also recommend the above resources if you are in the early stages of your teaching career or have taken the brave step to teach a computing course for the first time.
The final thing to consider… how to recruit students to my course! With GCSE option events making an appearance in the first term it was important that parents and students were aware of what the course offered.
OCR had a range of guides for students and parents, and even have a free options evening pack for GCSE Computer Science. This made conversations with parents at these events much smoother – and saved me time in creating these resources from scratch!
The start of a new academic year can be a daunting time for any teacher, new or experienced. We ask ourselves questions such as “Am I teaching the correct thing?” or “How can I be sure that students are grasping what I am teaching”. One of the first things we need is a clear scheme of work.
The “Planning and teaching” section on each qualification page has lots of support to help develop a robust scheme of work. This helped build my confidence and ensured that I was well prepared to deliver the course.
When planning the scheme of work, I found it useful to attend a “First teaching” webinar. This provided a space to talk with other new teachers and help to iron out any problems I had.
Once I started teaching the new course, I found that there were elements of teaching and learning that I didn’t always have the answers to. Sometimes I wanted more understanding of a particular part of the specification. At other times I wanted to discover more about best practice to assess a given topic or simply wanted to seek clarification on a mark scheme.
When these questions arose, the “Ask the subject expert online” events allowed me to talk with the OCR subject advisors. These sessions really helped to boost my confidence throughout teaching. These sessions also helped further down the line, as my teaching developed and my questions changed!
Now I was confident in delivery. It was time to start looking forward to best assessment practices.
During a previous CPD event I was recommended by a subject advisor to use ExamBuilder to create assessments for my students. I could access a lot of past paper questions with mark schemes, allowing me to pick out specific topics and questions and then tailor assessments to the needs of my students.
The “Making the grade” CPD events dive into example questions from the sample assessment materials and review questions and mark schemes. This event also allowed me to share my experiences with experts and discuss any misconceptions or issues I had been having.
After gaining confidence in teaching the qualifications it was then time to see what else I could do to push my own professional development. I wanted to be sure that the feedback and support that I was giving to pupils was of high quality, especially when giving feedback on assessments.
Post examination is always best practice to reflect upon our teaching. Active Results is a free results analysis service which helped me review the exam performance of my students. This allowed myself to highlight areas of improvement and make that a part of my planning for the upcoming year.
Building networks is an effective way of gathering the expertise of others in the same position as you. During my time teaching OCR courses, teacher networks were a great way to collaborate with other teachers and were another good way to get in touch with the team of subject advisors.
These events allowed me to discuss teaching and assessment, share ideas and best practice and build supportive networks.
Choosing a new course or moving to a new awarding organisation is a big step. Personally, I found that OCR had every need I had covered through either CPD, networks, or direct conversations with their team of subject advisors.
Their personal support and the teaching communities online really helped me to settle in and develop both confidence in delivery and strong support networks. This confidence helped me personally and supported my students.
So, if you are debating whether to move to OCR or not – drop the subject advisors an email, or give us a ring, and we will make sure you are supported on every step of your journey.
If you have any questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or tweet us @OCR_ICT. You can also sign up to our subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Before joining OCR in September 2021, Connor worked as a head of Computing in Cambridgeshire. Prior to teaching, he studied Computer Games Development at the University of Bedfordshire. Outside of work, Connor is a keen golfer, avid tech head and music enthusiast.