In January the Field Studies Council (FSC) hosted a meeting at their HQ in Preston Montford just outside Shrewsbury. Staff from Field Studies centres across the UK gathered to discuss the new Biology A Levels and the place for field work within those qualifications. Katherine Hands-Taylor and I went along to present the OCR approach to the Practical Endorsement, including field work, and to meet the people who make it happen in the great outdoors.
The Practical Endorsement of the new Biology A Levels presents a golden opportunity to move away from the artificial ‘bolt-on’ feel of controlled assessment to a situation in which teacher assessment of practical skills is fully integrated into teaching and learning throughout the course.
For teachers of A Level Biology this means that field work is freed up to be designed and undertaken primarily for the purpose of enthusing and educating students, with the opportunity to log competence in various skills (the ‘assessment’) as a bonus. All of the following options are valid approaches to field work:
We have had several queries from switched-on Heads of Department about the scope for covering investigative and research skills (PAG12) during their field trip. Naturally we have confirmed to these HoDs that this is an excellent idea and that we and the FSC are more than willing to provide support as they construct their own path towards giving the next generation of biologists the practical skills they need to succeed.
So, plenty of options for exciting activities that will both support understanding of the specification content, and allow students to demonstrate the required skills for the Practical Endorsement. For other teaching and learning resources, and general information about our qualifications, visit the OCR GCE Biology A and OCR GCE Biology B (Advancing Biology) qualification pages.
Richard Tateson - Subject Specialist - A Level Biology
Richard Tateson is an A Level Biology subject specialist at OCR. He has previously been a Head of Biology at Ipswich School, a Biology teacher at Hartismere and a nature-inspired computing researcher with BT. His PhD research was in developmental cell biology of fruit flies. In his spare time he swims and sings, almost never simultaneously.