Recent research by the London Institute of Education revealed science teachers tended to prefer textbooks which would grace the coffee table rather than those which would help their students.
At first glance, Human Biology, the fourth and final book in the Collins Advanced Science series, looks that type of book. It's big, heavy, has "designer pages" and a heady mix of full colour photographs and illustrations. But the team of three authors has thought very carefully about how sixth formers will use it. The content will satisfy the demands of A-level and vocational post-16 courses and the text builds on the knowledge most students will have gained from their GCSE courses.
There are eight themes which cover familiar areas such as molecules and cells and homeostasis and each one has an opener which introduces the chapters within the theme. The key ideas are highlighted and there are short "self-test questions" with answers at the back. Any modern application, historical feature or information of interest that is not specifically in any syllabus is dealt with in a "feature box", while ideas that go beyond the normal A-level depth of treatment are in extension boxes, although it's not always obvious which is which. Each chapter has a summary, questions, worked examples and sometimes an assignment, which focuses on an application and is an opportunity to practise key skills. The text is easy to read and should be accessible to A-level students. Some of the photographs are small and a few of questionable value, but there are some useful diagrams.
The two new books in the Illustrated Advanced Biology series will be valuable supplements to the sixth form stock. Genetics and Evolution and Mammals: Structure and Function use photomicro-graphs, photographs, line drawings, flow diagrams and notes. Both are in black and white and, while not as attractive as the Collins series, they are well presented, have questions in the text and answers in the back and should be really useful for the detailed study of these topics.
Jackie Hardie is acting head of The Latymer School, Enfield , north London