Computing is a broad discipline, and teachers require a range of strategies to deliver effective lessons to their pupils. The National Centre for Computing Education’s pedagogical approach consists of 12 key principles underpinned by research: each principle has been shown to contribute to effective teaching and learning in computing.
It is recommended that teachers use their professional judgement to review, select, and apply relevant strategies for their pupils.
These 12 principles are embodied by the Teach Computing Curriculum, and examples of their application can be found throughout the units of work at every key stage. Beyond delivering these units, you can learn more about these principles and related strategies in the National Centre for Computing Education pedagogy toolkit.
Lead with concepts Support pupils in the acquisition of knowledge, through the use of key concepts, terms, and vocabulary, providing opportunities to build a shared and consistent understanding. Glossaries, concept maps, and displays, along with regular recall and revision, can support this approach.
Encourage collaboration, specifically using pair programming and peer instruction, and also structured group tasks. Working together stimulates classroom dialogue, articulation of concepts, and development of shared understanding.
Use physical computing and making activities that offer tactile and sensory experiences to enhance learning. Combining electronics and programming with arts and
crafts (especially through exploratory projects) provide pupils with a creative, engaging context to explore and apply computing concepts.
Unplug, unpack, repack
Teach new concepts by first unpacking complex terms and ideas, exploring these ideas in unplugged and familiar contexts, then repacking this new understanding into the original concept. This approach, called ‘semantic waves’, can help pupils develop a secure understanding of complex concepts.
Model processes or practices — everything from debugging code to binary number conversions — using techniques such as worked examples and live coding. Modelling is particularly beneficial to novices, providing scaffolding that can be gradually taken away.
Foster program comprehension
Use a variety of activities to consolidate knowledge and understanding of the function and structure of program s, including debugging, tracing, and Parson’s Problems. Regular comprehension activities will help secure understanding and build connections with new knowledge.
Use project-based learning activities to provide pupils with the opportunity to apply and consolidate their knowledge and understanding. Design is an important, often overlooked aspect of computing. Pupils can consider how to develop an artefact for a particular user or function and evaluate it against a set of criteria.
Provide activities with different levels of direction, scaffolding, and support that promote learning, ranging from highly structured to more exploratory tasks. Adapting your instruction to suit different objectives will help keep all pupils engaged and encourage greater independence.
Use formative questioning to uncover misconceptions and adapt teaching to address them as they occur. Awareness of common misconceptions alongside discussion, concept mapping, peer instruction, or simple quizzes can help identify areas of confusion.
Bring abstract concepts to life with real-world, contextual examples and a focus on interdependencies with other curriculum subjects. This can be achieved through the use of unplugged activities, proposing analogies, storytelling around concepts, and finding examples of the concepts in pupils’ lives.
Use supportive frameworks when planning lessons, such as PRIMM (Predict, Run, Investigate, Modify, Make) and (Use-Modify-Create). These frameworks are based on research and ensure that differentiation can be built in at various stages of the lesson.
Read and explore code first
When teaching programming, focus first on code ‘reading’ activities before code writing. With both block-based and text-based programming, encourage pupils to review and interpret blocks of code. Research has shown that being able to read, trace, and explain code augments pupils’ ability to write code.