Mixed bag of science

24th March 1995 at 00:00
Science Pack for Intermediate GNVQ, Collins Vocational Sciences, series editor Mike Coles. A4 ring binder, 144 pp. Pounds 80. 0 00 322379 5 Collins Educational.

Intermediate Science GNVQ, Copymasters and teacher's notes. By Maggie Williams, Peter Williams and Chris Prescot. A4 ring binder, 58 pp. Pounds 27.50 1 0 582 246229 A. Longman.

Teachers have been faced with many challenges in recent years and the introduction of courses leading to General National Vocational Qualifications is unlikely to prove the easiest. The success of these vocationally-based qualifications will depend on the expertise and hard work of staff involved, but their workload can be reduced with well-designed and relevant resources.

Collins Educational has produced a science pack specifically for Intermediate GNVQ, and it shows. It includes a useful mapping exercise for elements and performance criteria of both the science and core skills against the 22 assignments contained in the pack. The assignments have a definite vocational theme and clearly show how the tasks cover the performance criteria of both the science and core units.

The content of the assignments is generally good, with some imaginative approaches to satisfying the performance criteria. Each one consists of six sides of A4, two of which act as a front sheet and an action plan (which has too much blank space). The third gives a scenario and brief and the final three cover background information and useful contacts. Topics such as orthopaedic beds, mountain rescue services and choosing the right tent should prove interesting and accessible to students.

The teacher's notes are too brief and some of the advice is surprising; I think that a student with FF grades in double science would be better advised to consider a Foundation GNVQ. A particular problem with grading is deciding how much information to give students. Higher grades depend on their collecting and handling information for themselves. It would be simple to hold back more of the background information as the course progresses, thus enabling them to demonstrate merit and distinction work as they become more skilful, but this is not made clear in the teacher's notes. Despite these drawbacks this is a praiseworthy attempt to provide teachers with much-needed help in a challenging and developing curriculum area.

The Longman pack, by contrast, is based on the successful GCSE Science at Work (SAW) series and is designed to be used with it. At Pounds 27.50, this minimises costs to institutions already using the series, but SAW is a GCSE resource and has not been written from a vocational viewpoint.

The teacher's file starts with 16 pages of notes explaining the Intermediate course structure, but would not help anyone approaching GNVQ as a novice. Action planning of assignments (central to grading) is not mentioned and the assessment grading criteria are left well alone, yet both of these are bound to cause problems.

The file includes a map of elements in the four mandatory units and the SAW booklets, together with student worksheets to fill in any gaps.

There are also 16 assignments, presumably meant to satisfy the evidence indicators although this is not actually stated. There is no breakdown of the exact coverage of the performance criteria or range in the science units and the core skills are not even mentioned.

No attempt has been made to provide a vocational scenario for the assignments. The student's booklet explains the course with some success but the suggested action plan would not help anyone new to the process, and the explanation of the grading criteria only covers two of the four themes.

The problems with this resource are mainly due to the attempt to graft GNVQ on to existing GCSE material and it does not work.

Andrea Finesilver is a lecturer in science at the College of North East London and is a member of the South East working group for the Nuffield Curriculum Project.

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