SDD Outcome 3 – Report (Higher)

  • Stephen Stewart

    I have had a look at the Higher assessment pack and Outcome 3 in SDD looks a bit different. It is a report on the impact of contemporary computing technologies. The assessment pack states…

    For Outcome 3 you have to produce a detailed report, which is likely to be in three parts, based on your study of:

    1) a current trend in software development languages and environments
    2) a current trend in the development of intelligent systems
    3) a current trend in online systems

    You could choose trends from areas that you have studied in class, or a new area that you will investigate yourself. Your assessor may guide you in your choice, to ensure it is appropriate and that you will be able to find relevant information.

    This might sound like a stupid question but does this mean the report must include all three areas or can we choose an area and get pupils to look at that? Otherwise I think this outcome could take quite a bit of time to get through. Any ideas?

    Robert Young

    Stephen, how have you enough time to be looking at the Higher stuff? Now you’ve just depressed me even more!

    Though seriously I would hope that it is one of those areas and not all three since it would take my lot ages to complete. Once again it sounds like more poorly written stuff from the SQA.

    Peter Thoresen


    ref: Page 3 of the SDD Unit Specification, and page 12 of the SDD Unit Assessment (Assessment Standards and Judgements)

    From these it is clear that pupils have to investigate and report on *all* of the three topics.

    However the SQA bottled out of actually providing a specimen answer (for any part), so we don’t have any indication as to the depth of treatment required.

    Maybe further SDD packs (if any are planned) will include specimen answers – even if they are no longer “contemporary” they are still required.

    Peter Thoresen


    I raised concerns about this at the Higher meeting in Edinburgh.

    SQA will not provide a sample answer to this as the sample answer then becomes the standard answer for everyone.

    As this is for a unit assessment, pupils only have to meet a “minimum competence” to pass each task.

    For each of the three topics pupils have to report on 6 items – pg34 – pupils who write a single sentence on each item will have met the minimum competence for the unit.

    For Languages and Environment I am investigating visual programming languages.
    These have been created to make programming easier for “non-programmers”.
    Previous programming languages required that commands be typed in.
    Currently there are several languages for schools (Scracch) and development of smartphone apps (AppInventor).
    Some of these languages are moving to cloud based development where programming is done through a browser.
    This will benefit the UK economy as more people take up programming.

    This may not be what most of us consider to be a “higher level” answer, but it (just) meets the task requirements.

    Dave Stott

    Hi Peter

    I’m not too sure I’d accept your example as one meeting the requirements at Higher. It’s Nat 5 at best for me…here’s why…

    – visual environments don’t make programming easier…
    – Scratch is the environment and not the language. It uses Squeak SmallTalk as the programming language.
    – AppInventor isn’t strictly a language either but is close enough or too complex for lower ability Higher candidates to comprehend. AppInventor blocks are converted into XML code in plain text files and then interpreted using YAIL. When the app is executed using Android it is YAIL object code that is further interpreted and runs on top of the Java Virtual Machine running on the Phone/Tablet etc. I usually skip most of this and would accept that AppInventor uses Java as its programming language at Higher level.
    – there is no benefit mentioned, more people taking up programming doesn’t benefit any one. It’s what those people do with their newly acquired skills that will impact on the economy…I’d expect reasons such as filling vacant jobs, thereby paying taxes, spending more money, creating world leading software solutions, leading the country in creative development etc. If the candidate appends ‘jobs’ then I’d accept it as meeting that minimum requirement.

    Hope this is helpful.


    Peter Thoresen

    Hi Dave

    I agree with you, I do not consider my sample answer to be Higher level.

    However the requirements of passing this unit task is not based on quality of answers. All that matters is “have they met the assessment standards?”.

    The learning outcome is
    “3 Produce a detailed report on the impact of contemporary computing technologies, by analysing and evaluating:
    3.1 Current trends in software development languages and environments
    3.2 Current trends in the development of intelligent systems
    3.3 Current trends in online systems”

    The supplied assessment judgments on which are to base this decision are:

    “The candidate analyses and evaluates:
    – one current trend in software development languages and/or environments
    – one current trend in the development of intelligent systems
    – one current trend in online systems
    The candidate describes the impact on at least one of the following for each trend:
    – environment
    – economy

    From page 8:
    Outcome 3 Report – …The assessment support materials provided here are intended to act as a guide to the organisation of the task for the candidate, to the structure of the relevant report, and to the level of candidate response.”

    Aha – the unit support pack includes “level of candidate response”.

    The only place that this can be is on page 34, where pupils are told to that the each analysis should “explain why it has come about, explain how it builds on previous technologies, describe the current stage of development, explain how it may develop in the future”. This could be construed as the “structure” rather than “level” – but then where is the level of candidate response?

    The way the task is written it is only the process that matters, not the quality of responses.

    In the absence of any exemplification, I would have to give a pupil a pass if they submitted my sample answer (for one of the three investigations).

    Have they identified a trend? Yes
    Have they explained how it came about? Very poorly, but yes
    Have they explained how it build upon previous technologies? Very poorly, but yes.

    I pushed the SQA representative on this issue at the Higher meeting, and he agreed that (correct) single sentence answers are enough to demonstrate the required “minimum competence”.

    I am not happy this standard of answer – but unless the SQA give further guidance I have to accept that the pupil has met the task requirements.

    No sample answer is given in the unit support packs, and no sample answer is given for Q5 (Section 2) of the specimen question paper.

    Compare this with the Unit Assessment Pack for Admin & IT – Admin Theory and Practice (Higher). For each question several possible responses are listed, along with an example answer that illustrates the level of answer required.

    Peter Thoresen

    Unit Support Pack 3 for SDD and ISDD are now on SQA Secure.

    As expected, no further guidance from SQA on this topic – they just added the word “and” twice (in bold) to make it clear that pupils have to carry out three investigations.

    Mr David Alford

    I can open the ISDD UAS pack 3 using the version of Word in my school (2003) and have had no trouble with the other Word docs from SQA, but cannot open the SDD pack 3 document. It opens and asks for the encoding to use and shows gobbledegook text as if it was not in fact a Word document.

    Has anyone else had this problem? My PT is going to try with a later version of Word at home tonight, but normally you would get a dialog box saying “This document was created using a more recnt version of Word” or similar.

    David Alford

    Richard Scott


    I think the assessment pack you are having trouble with from the SQA site can be opened if you change its file prefix from .doc to .docx it must have got lost somewhere in transit!

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