Mysteries of the organisms
Jackie Hardie rounds up new texts for A and AS-level biology. As the science national curriculum has changed, the investigation component has become more realistic. Teachers have gained confidence in teaching scientific process skills at key stage 4 and their pupils have become competent investigators.
The problem of investigation has been transferred to the post-16 curriculum. The new A and AS-level syllabuses include the requirement for individual project work and extended investigations, so while competent investigators from key stage 4 should be able to progress to such work relatively easily, there will always be some who struggle and for whom the teacher becomes crucial.
Skills in Advanced Biology 3. Investigating - the last in a series on action learning - may provide essential reading for these pupils. There are eight chapters, moving in a logical sequence from an introduction to the scientific method, through planning, to suggestions for investigations.The section on scientific method using a Scrabble board game model will not appeal to everyone; other sections are potentially much more useful.
The chapter on Appropriate Techniques discusses sampling, equipment (with a very useful section for non-chemists on making solutions) and data logging. Scientific Literature explains the purpose and structures of a scientific paper and ways to search the literature. It also includes a section on using the on-line library catalogue of a university, so the book could be useful in higher education too. A section of planning investigations will guide the reader on how to choose what to investigate and how to write up reports.
Most helpful will be the two examples of reports by sixth formers, one on "Tooth Frequency of Nucellus Lapillus" and the other on "A comparison of kinesthetic sensitivity between musicians and non-musicians", which are models of their type. And for those still at a loss as to what to investigate, a useful final section provides a list of ideas. This will be an invaluable addition to the sixth-form reference library and will a source of good ideas for teachers.
Jackie Hardie is deputy head of the Latymer School in north London