Science

8th September 2000 at 01:00
EUREKA! Year 7 Green and Red textbooks. By Carol Chapman, Rob Musker, Daniel Nicholson and Moira Sheenan Heinemann pound;9.25 each. EXPLORING SCIENCE 1. By Mark Levesley, Sandra Baggley, Julian Clarke, Steve Gray, Marc Pimbert. Longman Teacher's Handbook, pound;30. Pupil's Book pound;8.50.

Eureka! and Exploring Science offer new and exceptionally comprehensive courses for key stage 3. Both have integrated assessment exercises (with answers), careful linking to the national curriculum and, in the case of Eureka!, to QCA and DfEE published work schemes.

Worksheets are provided for practical activities; both courses pay attention to developing pupils' literacy and mathematical skills and offer support for Sc1 (investigations) through, for example, skill sheets. Exploring Science also offers fully worked out Sc1 investigations with mark schemes. Both courses offer ideas for the integration of ICT throughout; Eureka! giving activities supported by worksheets.

The pupil books contain some really excellent features. Both have questions fully integrated into the text, links to historical contexts including the scientists involved, cartoons, summaries at the end of each topic and interesting facts about particular topics wherever possible. Eureka! also offers us poetry, a very nice touch. All this may imply that the pages are very busy, but on the whole these books are well designed and attractively presented. In Eureka! I particularly liked the use of people talking through dialogue boxes engaging pupils in discussion and thinking; Eureka!'s link, among others, to the King's College CASE project (Cognitive Acceleration in Science Education).

The images are well balanced, reflecting the diversity in our socity; Eureka! is exemplary in this respect. Finally, the teacher's handbook for Exploring Science offers comprehensive support for the use of the textbooks and other aspects of the course, without being too prescriptive.

Differentiated resources, activities and worksheets are a major feature of both courses. For Eureka!, pupil books are provided at two levels. The higher-level books (Red) claim to offer more challenging text, more examples and more demanding questions. The use of different kinds of questions in each of the books is very helpful but there are some puzzling anomalies. For example, the higher-level book explains "di" in carbon dioxide and "hydro" in hydrocarbon, thus presumably allowing pupils to understand rather than to memorise. In the lower level book (Green) hydrocarbon is explained but not carbon dio-xide. Why? Understanding general principles surely helps all pupils.

Furthermore, the use of parallel books means that lower ability pupils may be denied access to materials that might interest them or that they might indeed understand, since it is unlikely that schools will be able to offer both books to lower ability pupils.

In contrast the Exploring Science books have differentiated pages so pupils have access to all the material, leaving decisions of selection to the teacher and pupil. However, Exploring Science has also had to make compromises to do with the level of language used and a more limited range of differentiated questions. There is no perfect answer and the implications of differentiation for textbook publishing need further exploration.

Ann Childs is a lecturer in science education at the University of Oxford Department of Educational Studies


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