As the exam boards have only just published the new specifications in the last couple of months for the new GCSE courses, I haven’t yet had chance to discuss which choice to make with the heads of chemistry/biology or or to properly plan out how we should teach such a course/which textbooks to buy etc. Therefore, to make sure I can make a well informed decision and have enough time to be able to plan how to teach the new specs properly, this term will be a ‘transition term’ for Y9, which will focus on teaching them the skills that they will need when they start the new GCSE in January. As it has been made very clear by the government that many of these skills will be mathematical, we will look at these, plus we will study how to write extended answers in science (as it seems that the infamous ‘6 mark questions’ – or at least something similar – will remain) and interpret data from graphs and the like.
OCR’s 21st Century Science GCSE course has been taught at both my previous and new schools, so in order not to overcomplicate things I’ve rooted this skills-based scheme of work in their Sustainable Energy module (P3), with the addition of climate change (which would usually have been taught previously in P2). I think this has a good mix of factual learning (electromagnetic induction and how thermal/nuclear power stations work), arguing scientifically (examining the pros and cons of different energy sources and which ones different situations call for), mathematical skills (power equations, calculating efficiency, using the kilowatt-hour) and data analysis (studying energy use, climate patterns and Sankey diagrams), whilst being based in a really topical area that students should know about, for the good of the future of Earth! Using a whole module means that assessment will be much easier (we can use complete past papers, instead of cobbling questions together) and makes it feel like a coherent terms worth of work. However, to stop it feeling too much like a recycled GCSE module, I’ve entitled it ‘Can Physics Save the World?’ and have made some nice graphics to go with it (if I do say so myself!) that are used in the lesson PowerPoint presentations and also in the information booklet that each student will get at the start of the term.
This information booklet has a couple of functions. Firstly, it explains the rationale behind the scheme of work in student friendly language and outlines the skills that they will learn. Secondly, it presents the learning objectives of each of the 12 lessons in the course, so the students know what they need to learn during the lesson, what’s coming up in the future and what they should remember from the past. Finally, it provides links to some revision websites/YouTube videos that will help them to revise the content for the end of unit assessment. I am a big believer in sharing information with students so they understand what they are doing, when they are doing it and why they are doing it, and this little booklet ticks many of those boxes. I print them so they can be folded to make an A5 booklet from A4 paper and stuck on the first page of the students’ new exercise books, for them to keep safely as a reference.
In all probability, this course will run for this year only, but hopefully it will equip the students with the basic skills they need for the more demanding GCSE that is to follow and provide us physics teachers with the time to prepare for the new course properly.