Andrea Finesilver assesses videos for vocational courses. In an ideal world, a vocational science course would involve plenty of contributions from science industries and services, with many visits to real laboratories and assignments based on actual processes and problems. In reality, it is not always practical for assignments to be carried out in this way. To get the maximum benefit from visits to laboratories, students need time, which may not be available, to become familiar with the processes involved and to learn new skills. Furthermore, the school or college may be some distance from science industry and services relevant to the course and those which are near enough may be unable or unwilling to collaborate.
The Science GNVQ video pack with a total running time of 64 minutes comes with a colourful poster and accompanying booklets which link the information to assignments from the ASE Satis 16-19 and to Nuffield Science in Practice. There is also information about the scientists taking part in the programme -their qualifications and the positions they hold - and suggested activities for students. The videos are designed for A-level, but could also be used for some intermediate work.
The videos take real situations and not only demonstrate the techniques used but also follow a scenario through from beginning to end. The topics are sufficiently varied and up-to-date to be both interesting and useful to the student. A Taste of Science, for example, about a producer of flavourings for the food and drinks industry, follows the problem solving process from the first introduction of the client's request, through the laboratory formulation and testing to the final presentation of the solution. Both the science skills and the core skills are emphasised throughout the process.
DNA Detectives introduces the National Data Base of DNA Profiles and explains how samples from suspected criminals or scenes of crime are analysed and matched. A Question of Balance focuses on the development of an integrated crop system by the supermarket chain Sainsbury`s and Van Heyningen Brothers, a fresh produce supplier. An Aspirin a Day describes how aspirin was recognised as an effective drug for vascular disease by researchers and clinicians using computer technology.
The video Views on Science GNVQ could be used to introduce students to the way they will be required to work and to the basic structure of the course. Most of the talking is done by students themselves or by people working in science services or industries. This video could also be used on open days to introduce GNVQ science to prospective students and their parents. Advanced GNVQ is in real competition with Advanced GCE science courses and, because it is a new course, it is not generally understood by the general public.
Andrea Finesilver is lecturer in science at the College of North East London