Skip to main content

23 February 2023

5 ideas for supporting HPA learners in Computing

Adrienne Tough profile image
Written by

Adrienne Tough

Differentiation is a buzz word that we hear a lot in education. Every student is different, with an abundance of data stored about them. One piece of data we are often encouraged to record, and store is their HPA status. I have mixed feelings towards this. A student who is HPA might be particularly strong in some subjects, but this might not necessarily translate to their computing education and vice versa. Nonetheless, I am going to pose 5 ways to help the HPA students in your lesson but define HPA as a student who shows an aptitude for computing and finishes tasks quickly (and to a high standard!)

  1. Challenge tasks- On slides set a challenge task. This can start from the beginning in the starter activity and throughout class tasks. Students should rarely if ever feel finished in computing. Success criteria is useful for all students and when there is an explicit challenge it can provide a further feeling of achievement. I’d recommend having a consistent technique to show the challenge tasks – e.g. I use a red C.

    I’d also recommend having open ending challenges, particularly in starter activities. This avoids those frustrating moments when students finish and you’re still doing admin tasks (like the register or supporting another student).

    Another good challenge task is to ask students how their learning links from a previous lesson or what cross-curricular links they can make. This invites deeper level thinking and when they share their ideas, helps others makes these links too. After all we don’t want students to treat lessons/units as isolated components but instead appreciate how they all work together.


  1. Student helpers/ Tas- students love being given this opportunity. So much so that a colleague made student-teacher lanyards, which proved a huge motivation! Have students help others but set clear rules before letting them go. For example, you might want to direct them to a particular area of the room to support, ask them to look out for specific errors or set that they cannot take over a computer (I really recommend this, otherwise they become the do-er, rather than the helper). I tend to tell mine to do the ‘so what’. If a question is asked and an answer is given ask so what. Keep going until they cannot answer any more. (This is also a great technique with KS4 wider issues topic). It really can be surprising to see which students really step up to the opportunity.

  2. Research tasks- This can be set in class or as additional homework tasks. Direct to particular sites or provide a research question. Students could then create a project (e.g. a PowerPoint or poster) and then share this with others so everyone gets a bit of extra learning. This can be a one off or could be an ongoing challenge that they can direct to when they’ve finished the main task.

    It can be helpful to have some of these pre-printed. I used to keep a drawer of relevant news articles (helping hit that cultural capital…) When students finished they could then choose which topic they wanted to read a news story on (cyber security was by far the most popular, but the element of choice helps ensure focus) and they’d read the article and then do some further research around this.

  3. Refinement/alternative solutions- if finished ask students to find an alternative solution or refine their work, wherever possible. Or ask them to refine another student’s work. This can broaden their thinking and develop teamwork.

  4. Create resources- give students the opportunity to create resources. This can reduce your workload (potentially) and also allow them to have more responsibility in the classroom. Some successes in the past have included having students complete starter activities for the following lesson, a plenary to finish up the lesson, create their own blooket (computing related of course), a quiz for other students (some have completed this in Python and then when other students finish, they run the code. If a few students are working on this, it proves a really nice activity for them).


 I’m also a big fan of games (I have created a computing style Dobble, Taboo, crosswords) and so students could be tasked to create their own. Similarly, I use a lot of imagery – acronyms, analogies, mnemonics, and poems. When I provide a resource, I know I can then always have a challenge task of students creating their own. I have had some brilliant poems and artwork created for my poems in the past, and students tend to enjoy creating their own acronyms.

There are of course many other ideas but these are my top five.


Please login to post a comment