Apr 22, 2022

InFormCS: Formative Assessment Meets Computer Science Standards

Carrie Parker
students in computer lab

Has your state expanded its computer science offerings or adopted new computer science standards? Or are your computer science teachers new to the content area? Consider the InformCS project as a way to build educators’ understanding of computer science standards while also better understanding students’ learning processes.

InformCS is a National Comprehensive Center project that provides guidance and resources on how to promote computer science teachers’ conceptual understanding of CS standards and teachers’ ability to use standards-aligned formative assessment practices. These resources can be used by district-level instructional coordinators and teacher leaders to deepen computer science educators’ content and pedagogical knowledge through focusing on formative assessment literacy. 

Out of necessity, computer science teachers have had to be resourceful and often learn content as they prepare to teach students.  Well-intentioned educators find or create formative assessment tasks, but these tasks are often too broad in scope and don’t always provide useful information about student understanding and challenges. The InformCS approach empowers teachers to zero in on student misconceptions, which in turn supports greater content mastery for students.
We have created a range of resources to introduce the project and support implementation:

  • This blog post about InformCS explains why systematically-developed formative assessment tasks aligned to computer science concepts and standards can be a powerful lever for teacher understanding and student learning. 
  • A brief video introduces a five-step process used in InformCS as well as a detailed example of the process in practice.

And if you want to dig in deeper:

  • The InformCS whitepaper offers a framework to support computer science teachers in diagnosing and addressing student challenges using well-designed and appropriately selected formative assessment tasks. The guidance is designed to help teachers anticipate and decipher student challenges on specific CS concepts, and adjust instruction to provide targeted support to students based on their challenges. 

The InformCS practice guide uses a particular computer science standard as a case study for applying the five-step approach described in the video. After completing the steps, teachers will better understand how to integrate standards-aligned formative assessment practices in their instruction. Teachers can then create or select sample formative assessment tasks that are aligned to specific aspects of computer science standards and re-adjust instruction to meet demonstrated student learning needs.