It's harder than it looks

28th October 1994 at 00:00
GNVQ Science Assignments: Advanced Pack 1., Nuffield Science in Practice project, photocopiable materials. Pounds 25. 0 435 63254 X. Heinemann, Halley Court, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8EJ Jerry Wellington believes the time has come for universities to take science GNVQs more seriously.

The Nuffield Science in Practice team, led by Andrew Hunt and Nicholas Russell, continues to provide support for GNVQ science, which may prove to be the biggest single factor in making it a success.

Following the "questions and answers" handbook and the assignments pack for intermediate level, this latest pack from Heinemann provides evidence of how new and exciting, and yet involved and demanding, GNVQ science will be.

If universities still need convincing that this "new" qualification is a fully-acceptable entrance requirement for their science and engineering courses, then their admissions tutors should examine this pack and (I would speculate) the students' book due in the summer of 1995.

The collection provides a total of 30 assignments for students ranging over eight different units, covering areas from investigating materials and obtaining products from organisms to communicating information and managing the human body.

Each assignment follows a format which provides details of the "tasks" for students, procedures to follow, including notes on safety, and tutor notes. The latter provide hints, technical notes and ideas for further resources.

For the record keepers (which includes all of us in the Nineties) a full list is given of the elements of the GNVQ specifications covered by each unit, including reference to the core skills (number, communication and IT) involved. Some of the units include study guides for the students, indicating how they might organise their own learning and preparation for assignments.

What of the assignments themselves? My first reaction is that most are extremely involved, dispelling any illusions that GNVQ science is an easy option. Also, in contrast to traditional A-levels which cover largely pre-20th century science (and mostly pre-18th in the case of physics), these assignments attempt to relate science to the real world or, as the introduction puts it, the "vocational context". This has resulted in assignments on the science of brewing, safety in cars, screening for cancer, telecommunications cables, spectacles and an abrasive for toothpaste. The danger is that we are now dealing with the messy "real" world of science as opposed to the Newtonian microworld of friction's bodies and point masses in the old A-levels. But which area of study will best provide scientists for the future? My money is on GNVQ.

The assignments vary in length and complexity, with some only a few pages long while others, such as the problem-solving exercise, The Lady in the Lay-By, run to 16. All have emerged from the pilot centres involved in the project (50 in total) and apparently have been tried in context before publication. The material seems to have been developed very much along SATIS lines, a style of curriculum development which has proved hugely successful. This project promises to be equally valuable to teachers in schools and colleges. My advice is simple buy it.

Gnvq science assignments: advanced pack 1 Nuffield Science in Practice project, photocopiable materials. Pounds 25.

0 435 63254 X. Heinemann, Halley Court, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8EJ

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