The same elements

14th July 1995 at 01:00
Lynne Marjoram on a revised A level chemistry course. THE INDEPENDENT LEARNING PROJECT FOR ADVANCED CHEMISTRY. SECOND EDITION. Revised by Ann Lainchbury, John Stephens and Alec Thompson.

ILPAC 1: The Mole, Atomic Structure. 0 7195 5331 8. ILPAC 2: Chemical Energetics. 0 7195 5332 6. ILPAC 3: Bonding and Structure 0 7195 53334 ILPAC 4: s-block elements; The Halogens; The Periodic Table. 0 7195 5334 2. ILPAC 5: Introduction to Organic Chemistry. 0 7195 5336 9. ILPAC 6: Equilibrium I. Principles.

0 7195 7131 9. Pounds 6.99 each. Teacher's and Technicians' Notes for Books 1 - 6. Pounds 30. - 0 7195 7147 2. John Murray

ILPAC, the Independent Learning Project for Advanced Chemistry, was founded by ILEA in 1983 to overcome the problems of small sixth forms and a shortage of qualified teachers. Designed to assist resource-based learning, the units are not text-books but guides to study.

The biggest difference between this new edition of ILPAC and the first is in appearance, which is now much more professional. Unfortunately, the black and white photographs have not improved: laboratories still look dingy, dirty places. The original 20 books are repackaged as 12 and, presentation apart, it is surprising, after the curriculum upheaval of the past few years, to find the original text largely unchanged. Safety warnings for practical work have been revised and safer solvents are recommended. Some examination board questions have been updated, with the inclusion of the new, longer comprehension questions.

There are a few additions to the text, reflecting the weight now placed on industrial processes and environmental effects of chemistry. This is most apparent in ILPAC 5: Introduction to Organic Chemistry, covering hydrocarbons and halogeno-compounds. The alkynes section from the first edition has been removed, and a new chapter on air pollution includes car exhausts and catalytic converters. The petrochemicals chapter now covers unleaded petrol, and data on energy requirements extends to the 1990s.

Units begin with a list of necessary pre-knowledge and a pre-test. Now that students' pre-A-level background is GCSE not GCE, and often Double Science rather than Chemistry, students' pre-knowledge is probably not what it was in 1983. It is a pity that these sections have not been extended to bridge this gap, especially in the first three "starter" units.

The main text is divided into sections, usually of two or three pages. A list of objectives starts each section, and sometimes a referral to other sources of information. The bulk of the text consists of carefully structured exercises designed to develop students' knowledge and understanding. Difficult calculations are preceded by detailed worked examples. Equally detailed answers to exercises are given, occupying about one-third of the books. There are also essay questions and Unit tests (both teacher-marked) consisting mostly of past examination questions.

The end result is a thorough treatment of the subject which patiently and painstakingly explains tricky details which can cause confusion and are often glossed over in other texts.

Aptly titled, the Teacher's and Technician's Notes are not a comprehensive teacher's guide - that would be superfluous with such a course. Again, material is largely unchanged from the first edition. The technician notes comprise detailed lists of requirements for experiments, with updated hazard warnings. The loose leaf format means the notes can be separated for the technicians.

For teachers, there are answers and mark schemes for unit tests, but unfortunately, not for essay questions. Brief notes on experiments are based on sound practical experience and, a useful addition, mark schemes for those experiments suitable for internal assessment of practical work. Blank copies of tables and results charts can be photocopied for students.

Despite being highly structured , ILPAC can be used in various ways. A comprehensive source of exercises, practical work, past examination questions and tests, it is also useful for students who have been absent or who need remedial work on difficult topics. As an independent learning course, the starter units would need careful introduction and it requires strict adherence to unit deadlines, but some of the later units are particularly successful. It should prove adaptable to modular A-levels, as ILPAC was designed as a modular course before "modular" science was invented.

Lynne Marjoram is head of science at Kidbrooke comprehensive school, south London.

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