A few days ago I was the examiner for the first ever CodeGrades exam which took place at Memrise in East London, who have hosted a free training course leading up to the final CodeGrades assessment. It was an interesting experience from several perspectives and I think I was about as much on edge as the exam candidates.
What is CodeGrades?
It's a structured plan for developing coding skills starting from beginners and working up to professional level. The parallel is with the Music Grades which have been for many years the recognised grading system for musical ability, primarily among youngsters but the grades are open to anyone to achieve.
This was its first real try-out and so most materials etc. are not yet available but the basic ideas are clear. You can read up for yourself on the CodeGrades website but here's my take on it:
- A graded plan for developing coding skills
- Sitting outside curriculum lessons
- Anyone can take any grade when they feel ready
- Grade materials [will be] available for self-study or to assist teachers
- You pay for the exam; everything else is up to you
A graded plan
Each level will lay out what you're expected to be able to understand and use to achieve that grade. It will build on the grades before and, of course, you're at liberty to surpass what's required.
This is useful both to make it clear what's required and what isn't to reach that grade and also because it gives would-be teachers (in the classroom or outside) an outline plan to work to.
Outside curriculum lessons
Most instrumental teaching in this country happens outside curriculum lessons, either at the school but separate to lessons, or in private homes etc. Music can be taught as part of the curriculum but the theory and practical grades which are recognised are usually achieved elsewhere.
The point here is that schools could facilitate CodeGrades classes in the same way that they can do for instrumental lessons. But they don't have to, because would-be tutors can set up shop on their own; or people can simply self-study.
Take any grade
Coding is one of those activities where some people jump ahead. So if you're already perfectly happy using advanced features of lists and dictionaries and have implemented your own defaultdict subclass then you can skip Grades 1 & 2 and go straight to Grade 3.
Although CodeGrades are designed to develop people's coding ability, there's no need simply to go through the motions of an exam which you can pass with ease. Curriculum lessons and teachers don't have this luxury: they have to work to a curriculum and cope with the varied abilities in one class.
Grade materials available
Once the scheme is up and running more fully, suitable materials will be available via the CodeGrades site (and hopefully elsewhere)