Hints and tips - 5 minute read
Sylvia Grice, OCR Science Subject Advisor
Schools have now been closed for a while and teachers, students and their families have established their own new version of normal. Everyone is doing the best they can during this unprecedented situation. Here I give some suggestions to support teachers in providing the best learning opportunities for their Year 12 A Level Biology students.
At this time, it would be a huge challenge for teachers to deliver practical work on studying biodiversity and it would be even harder to pull forward and effectively teach the most challenging concepts of the Year 13 content like the Krebs cycle or waves of depolarisation. However, there are some sections of the specification that are better suited to remote teaching and learning which could be delivered now, so more time can be afforded to those complex topics after lockdown.
Some students can grasp the mathematical parts of the specification like the Hardy-Weinberg principle relatively easily (Biology A – Module 6; Biology B – Module 5). They could be given a video to introduce the topic and be supported by an online workshop or walkthroughs before being given the opportunity to practise using the equation in a quiz style or in more depth.
Now could be a good time for revising the AS Level mathematical concepts students will already met such as standard deviation, surface area to volume ratio and magnification and using SLOP (Shed Loads of Practice). Our Maths Skills Handbook as well as ExamBuilder can support you and your students with this requirement.
Students studying psychology may already have some knowledge and specific interest in brain structure. This could mean they have the background knowledge and confidence to access the functions of the central nervous system more independently (Module 5).
I have had Year 13 lessons where I have spent over an hour covering GCSE knowledge because their recall was poor. Now is a brilliant time to set work for students to ensure their base level of understanding is completely sound so, when lessons resume, teaching and learning can go into much greater depth.
Setting some work that allows students to fine-tune their understanding of genetic diagrams so they are in a brilliant position when you come to teaching them about sex linkage (Biology A – Module 6; Biology B – Module 5), or on the basics of respiration as preparation for their more detailed study could be really valuable (Biology A – Module 5; Biology B – Module 4).
This online simulation which allows a virtual investigation into light intensity and rate of photosynthesis is also excellent.
Some parts of the specification really lend themselves to being divided up into sections which students research and present on, either independently or in groups. They could present live on Skype or Zoom lessons, or make videos, posters, PowerPoints, quizzes or worksheets that they could circulate to their peers.
Topics which link smoothly to familiar concepts your students have already met would allow them to have some stepping stones for this work, such as comparing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes (Module 5) or conservation of ecosystems (Biology A – Modules 4 and 6; Biology B – Module 4).
The latter could tie into the reports of current changes in biodiversity during lockdown to highlight the ever-changing nature of science or be given an exciting live link to environmental stewardship in the Arctic.
SAPS have a brilliant section on tropisms which you could use with students to either practise their theoretical investigation planning and analysis skills or to investigate phototropism and gravitropism as they grow seeds at home.
Your students could complete independent work on using microorganisms in an industry where they reflect on using yeast in bread baking or bacteria in yoghurt making (Biology A – Module 6).
Using models could also improve student engagement – the skittles model for teaching genetic bottlenecking (Biology A – Module 6; Biology B – Module 5) is popular and, by adapting the model to what they have available in their homes and evaluating its effectiveness, could develop their skills in creativity and critical thinking.
Have you found a really good technique for remote teaching A Level Biology at this time? Let us know in the comments below.
If you have any queries or questions, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us on 01223 553998 or Tweet us @OCR_Science. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Sylvia Grice – Subject Advisor, Science
Sylvia joined OCR in April 2020 with specific responsibility for A Level Biology. She has come straight from the classroom after 8 years teaching GCSE Science and A Level Biology in Wiltshire and Norfolk with a brief period teaching in America. She is passionate about providing the support needed for excellent teaching and learning. Sylvia holds a degree in Natural Sciences and a PGCE in Secondary Science from the University of Bath. In her spare time, Sylvia enjoys travelling around the UK in her campervan with her family.