Closely written on the body
This latest offering from the Torrance team fills a much-felt gap in the provision for human biology at higher level and has most of the excellent features we have come to expect of their series of textbooks.
It covers the topics of the Higher course in the same sequence as the syllabus. Each chapter has concluding questions to test knowledge and understanding of the preceding concepts. There are "what you should know" sections at the end of groups of two or three related chapters and some 15 or so data interpretation exercises throughout the book. Diagrams, tables and graphs are used appropriately to illustrate and clarify concepts.
Descriptions and explanations are clear, although a few unnecessary names and terminology have been used. Material unique to or treated in greater depth by the human biology syllabus such as memory and genetic screening is well catered for, with good examples of the most important aspects involved.
Some traditional material has benefited from a revised treatment - DNA replication, for instance, now forms part of the introduction to cell division, while its structure, transcription into RNA and the translation of this into protein remains part of protein synthesis.
Graphics are clear, though some are too small for the amount of information being conveyed and many of the annotations are also rather small. However, many of the diagrams, such as that showing the relationship between types of blood vessels, provide innovative ways to look at familiar concepts.
The compulsory practicals are covered in some detail - methods are described and illustrated, results are provided, graphs drawn and conclusions made and evaluations use tables of design features and precautions. Pupils will find this information extremely helpful as they carry out and write up these practicals.
End-of-topic questions provide some demanding tests of pupils' understanding, and the answers to some are more complex than a first reading suggests. These will keep the most able pupils on their toes.
Elizabeth Sinclair is principal teacher of biology at Alva Academy.