Thursday, 11 July 2013

Confusions in the latest draft of the draft national curriculum

I consider myself to be an experienced science teacher, but the latest draft of the draft national curriculum is still confusing me!

I will write another post later comparing changes, but for now I want to focus on the statements within the national curriculum that I am left wondering what they are getting at.

The reason I want the outcomes to be made stronger is that Gove is asking for us to have more rigour in our national curriculum. If that is the case then the outcomes have to be clear, or we will inevitably try to fit what we have always done into the new framework instead of using the new curriculum as the starting point.

Biology:

-the structural adaptations of some unicellular organisms.
here, I think it is my subject knowledge that is at fault. I don't really know much about unicellular organisms other than they exist. Perhaps This statement is linked to them having to digest food outside the cell and then absorb the broken down chemicals and things like that? Perhaps it is to do with the size of the cell to give optimum surface area to volume ratio! Or perhaps it is linked to where they can be found? Perhaps this links to bacteria? Hopefully it will make sense to someone.

- biomechanics and the interaction between the skeleton and muscles, including the measurement of forces exerted by different muscles.
This was in the last draft, and I wasn't aware of the practical activity that is described here at that time, and I am still none the wiser to be honest. Hopefully the textbook publishers will know what this means and make a worksheet I can buy.

- reproduction in plants, including flower structure, wind and insect pollination, fertilisation, seed and fruit formation and dispersal, including quantitative investigation of some dispersal mechanisms
It is the investigation part of this statement I am wondering about. Is there an investigation I have not heard of, or is the rigorous national curriculum really suggesting we do a paper helicopters investigation?

- the adaptations of leaves for photosynthesis
- the relationship between structures and functions of leaves, including the chloroplasts and leaves

Is the second statement not covered by the first? Maybe I don't know enough about biology?

- chemosynthesis is bacteria and in other organisms
This is a topic I know little about, so I better get researching so that I can come up with a decent activity for the students. I assume that really what is meant by this is that the government want young people to know that photosynthesis and digestion are not the only way to get the energy and nutrients that we need.

- mineral nutrition in plants, to explain the full role of nitrogen
I am actually looking forward to this, growing plants with and without nitrogen fertilisers to see the difference (if it will work). What I am wondering about is that I have never heard of it called mineral NUTRITION. I think I need to look up the meaning of the word nutrient.

- aerobic and anaerobic respiration in living organisms, including the breakdown of organic molecules to enable all the other chemical processes necessary for life
I get aerobic and anaerobic respiration, they allow us to move and help heat our bodies, what I don't get is what they have to do with the second part of the statement. In fact the second part scares me. As a non-biologist what are all the other processes necessary for life? I might be able to guess as making enzymes in the pancreas and producing hormones to regulate blood sugar levels, and chemicals are needed to get nerve messages to flow in the synapses. But I can't remember any of that having to do with respiration from my A-level biology.

- the importance of biodiversity
I think that this is an obvious one, but I am not actually sure why it is important. I better check on Wikipedia!


Chemistry:
-the identification of pure substances
Does this mean generically or specifically? E.g. Does it mean that I should be teaching students how to identify water and carbon dioxide, or how you would use boiling point to identify what a colourless liquid distiller from a mixture might be? It can't be referred to a generic descriptors because above is the statement: the concept of a pure substance. I feel that this statements getting at some kind of practical or investigation, but I am stuck at what.

- the Periodic Table: periods and groups; metals and non-metals
I am not worried about the metals and non-non metals bit. I assume the groups and periods reference means that students will need to know groups go down and periods go across? Above is a statement saying the principles underlying the Mendeleev Periodic Table, which implies that specific knowledge of the properties of the groups is not necessary, but that they have things in common is.

- the chemical properties of metal and non-metal oxides with respect to acidity
What is this supposed to mean? The general pH of metal oxides (some don't dissolve) or that metal oxides act as bases? Non-metal oxides? Well dihydrogen oxide is neutral, but carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrous oxides can become acids. But they themselves don't contain hydrogen, so may add a misconception when I get to GCSE and explain all acids contain H+ ions. Except sulphur dioxide though miss, you taught us that in year 8.

- properties of ceramics, polymers and composites (qualitative)
Is this to show that we do have complex materials? I think that there is a lot of scope here and my only concern is knowing the extent to go to.

- the composition of the Earth
(This is different from structure). I don't know the answer to this one either. There is a lot of water and iron is involved. Off to Wikipedia I think. Hopefully Earth Learning Idea will solve this for me.

Physics:
Oh physics, why so hard?

- energy calculations using measures of change in the energy associated with elastic deformations, moving or vibrating objects, heating materials and chemical changes involving fuels.
There is no mention of equations here, but if students are to have a real feel for these changes in energy then shouldn't they do real energy calculations using real data? In which case they will need energy = mass x specific heat capacity x temperature change etc. in which case this needs to be taught in year 9. Otherwise I believe the energy topic will be boring.

- relative motion: trains and cars passing one another
In relation to what? Should students just know what relative motion is? Or should they be able to explain why a head on accident is more dangerous than a rear shunt?

- work done and energy changes on deformation
Involving calculations? I can't really work out what the students are expected to be able to say/do in relation to this topic. I would guess the students could compare areas underneath the force-extension graphs they draw for one of the other topics.

-potential difference, measured in volts, battery and bulb ratings; resistance, measured in ohms, as the ratio of potential difference (p.d) to current
It is the statement about bulb ratings that is confusing me. Our bulbs have ratings, but really that is to tell you the maximum voltage before they will go 'pop'. Is this what it means?

I want to stress that this is not my full analysis of the draft NC, just the statements that leave me with confusion about what I might actually teach to cover that topic.

What I really want are outcomes, not topic statements. What are my classess expected to be able to do and say? How can we get standardisation if we do not know the depth to go to. I image that it will force us to the publishers to find out what their lesson plans say.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:Rudgleigh Ave,Bristol,United Kingdom

9 comments:

  1. 1. The structural adaptations of some unicellular organisms

    I have taught bacteria before at KS3 but I think this statement links in with the Euglena lesson that I found out about from the IDEAS project. Euglena is a single celled organism that shows features of a plant cell and an animal cell. Showing it to students after they have learned about plant and animal cells is an excellent argumentation lesson as they have to decide what sort of cell they think it is. They can weigh up various forms of evidence until they reach a conclusion which they have to justify to the class. At the end it can be revealed that Euglena actually belongs to another kingdom the protists. The IDEAS resource pack with the euglena lesson in can be found at the National STEM Centre Library here http://www.nationalstemcentre.org.uk/dl/5dcf793bd481f79a0bad0cabc531f5eb141af51b/21139-IDEAS%20resourcepack.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  2. 2. Biomechanics and the interaction between the skeleton and muscles, including the measurement of forces exerted by different muscles.

    Hmm, this is tricky. I would have a look in the In The Zone pack that we got last year and see what could be adapted. Measuring the push/pull of biceps/triceps & hamstrings/quadriceps should be relatively easy. Maybe an excuse to see what the PE dept has in the gym.

    ReplyDelete
  3. 3. Reproduction in plants, including flower structure, wind and insect pollination, fertilisation, seed and fruit formation and dispersal, including quantitative investigation of some dispersal mechanisms

    Parsnip seeds https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=parsnip+seeds&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=L_LeUeueMIma0AXFk4GIAw&ved=0CAkQ_AUoAQ&biw=1366&bih=643 are brilliantly adapted to fly. Set up a ruler on a clamp stand a known distance from the ground (1m) using a plumb line made a mark on the floor directly below the ruler. Drop the parsnip seed from the height of the ruler then measure how far away from the mark it landed. You could vary the type of seed, height from the ground, weather conditions to see how far the seed gets dispersed. This is adapted from the AQA A Level Biology EMPA from Summer 2012.

    ReplyDelete
  4. 4 the adaptations of leaves for photosynthesis
    the relationship between structures and functions of leaves, including the chloroplasts and leaves.

    I guess there is a difference between just knowing what the adaptations are and how they help the function of the leaf. It looks to me like the adaptations of the chloroplast as required too. e.g. thylakoid membrane, grana, chlorophyll, stroma, amyloplasts, DNA, ribosomes. That sort of thing.

    ReplyDelete
  5. 5 chemosynthesis in bacteria and in other organisms
    Activities from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/learning/#lesson5

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/edu/guide/media/gomdse5chemoclass912.pdf

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/02fire/background/education/media/ring_candy_chemo_9_12.pdf

    http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/explorations/02fire/background/education/media/ring_candy_chemo_9_12.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  6. 6 mineral nutrition in plants, to explain the full role of nitrogen

    Investigating the effect of minerals on plant growth
    http://www.nuffieldfoundation.org/practical-biology/investigating-effect-minerals-plant-growth

    ReplyDelete
  7. 7. aerobic and anaerobic respiration in living organisms, including the breakdown of organic molecules to enable all the other chemical processes necessary for life

    I read the 'other processes' to be:
    digestion to break down food into small enough molecules for absorption into the body
    excretion to remove waste products from the body
    catabolism of fatty acids for energy release in respiration "burning fat"
    anabolism e.g. photosynthesis

    ReplyDelete
  8. 8 the importance of biodiversity
    2010 was the year of biodiversity, there was an SSR all about it.
    http://www.ase.org.uk/journals/school-science-review/2010/03/336/?

    Posters http://www.linnean.org/Education+Resources/Secondary_Resources/posters

    I love this biodiversity practical http://www.linnean.org/Education+Resources/Secondary_Resources/practicals/01-KS4-Post-16-practical-how-rich-is-your-habitat

    ReplyDelete
  9. Biomechanics - In the Zone - relationship height to max height jumped. Grip strength comparing L and R hand. Measure fatigue recovery. Compare grip strength with position of hand in relation to head. Use force sensor to relate force to length of levers. Model making - stability of different arrangement of limbs. Use sport analysis software to analyse throwing eg shot or javelin. Dissect chicken leg or pigs trotter to investigate relationship of ligaments, tendons and bones

    ReplyDelete