January 05: pilot teachers say ...
SNAB pilot teachers at ASE Annual Meeting Jan 2005
Here are some things said by pilot teachers present at a Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology session.
"SNAB helps retention of students at the start of the course, because it starts with a context that engages students. Traditional A-level courses start with biochemistry units which put students off - this causes them to leave the course. In the past I have lost six to seven students a set in this way, but this year I only lost two."
"Students like the A2 topics, especially the forensics one. 'Plants' is now an interesting topic to teach, and far more engaging for students; some really love it."
"Students say they find the course easier because it is more interesting."
"Teaching staff also love SNAB - they find the context-realised approach motivating."
"SNAB makes it really easy for NQTs to get into teaching A-level biology because there is plenty of teacher support."
"SNAB hasn't thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Field trips from traditional courses still work, and plenty of traditional things are still done in SNAB."
Teachers like the fact that the AS course gives students plenty of practice at practical skills without having an assessed practical in the AS, as there is in traditional courses. In the SNAB AS there is no assessment for teachers to mark.
Those present said that although they have more students and no more additional technical support, they are certainly managing.
"A-level results have been on a par with traditional courses."
"Students say they are better prepared for university study by all the various study skills in SNAB than their peers from traditional courses. There is a huge range of learning styles and teaching tasks. They have also benefited from doing more practical work than on traditional courses."
When it comes to A2 projects, students can develop some of the AS practicals further. Some pilot teachers give students a complete free rein when choosing project ideas. Others felt they need a bank of stimuli to get students started on project ideas.
Use of ICT
Some pilot centres have used the need for ICT facilities as a lever for purchasing a set of laptops. Others say they manage with booking into ICT suites or using a data projector. SNAB has helped staff to develop their ICT skills!
We can't resist adding this previous comment from a school in Oxfordshire
"We've had students come in saying 'Sorry sir you asked us to read such and such a bit but it was so interesting we just carried on ...' "