Enabling students to understand and analyse contemporary issues in science and technology

FAQs

Here is where we feature some frequently asked questions for the course.

Students FAQs

Who is this course for?

I am not doing any science A levels. Would I find it too difficult?

I only did single science at GCSE. Can I do the course?

Does it count as a science qualification for HE?

I am doing biology and chemistry A level. Will it cover the same material?

Will the internally assessed work take up a lot of my time?

What is problem based learning?

I want to apply for medicine. Will this course help me get a place?

Teachers FAQs

I am a chemist. Would I be able to teach the course?

How many hours a week do you need to teach the course?

Will we have to buy a lot of extra resources to teach the course?

What sort of support is provided to help teachers new to the course?

What resources are available to support the course?

Does the course have academic credibility?

Do we have to do practical work as part of the course?

Will my school get full funding for running AS and A Level Science in Society?

What is available for teaching about ethical issues?

Internally assessed work FAQs

Am I allowed to help my students with the coursework?

How can I ensure that I am marking the coursework to the right standard?

 


Who is this course for?

This course is about how science works. So it is for anyone who wants to know some of the science behind important issues in the news and how science contributes to decisions we all make in areas such as the environment and health matters. It doesn’t matter if you are doing other A levels in science or any other subject.


I am not doing any science A levels. Would I find it too difficult?

If you are intersted in discussing issues and finding out more so that you can discuss those issues knowledgably then you will be able to build on the science you already know from GCSE with little problem. This is not a practical course and some parts, like the book review, may be easier for people doing non-science subjects.

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I only did single science at GCSE. Can I do the course?

Yes, of course. In fact it is the single science GCSE that contains more of the work on how science works which Science in Society builds upon. There will be some science knowledge that you will be meeting for the first time compared to people who’ve done more than one science GCSE - but all you need is covered in the textbook and in the materials on this website.

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Does it count as a science qualification for HE?

Science in Society counts like most other A levels for general entry to university and has the same UCAS points. Where entry requires general science qualifications (for example, in entry to a teacher training qualification) then the A level or even the AS level will often be acceptable. It is not sufficient for a specialist science course. It will clearly be a useful qualification for courses such as science communication or media courses with an option in science journalism but is not a requirement.

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I am doing biology and chemistry A level. Will it cover the same material?

No. There will be some areas in which you have more background than other students but this course is about how biology and chemistry (and the other sciences) work and are used in society. It will add breadth to your specialist scientific study.

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Will the internally assessed work take up a lot of my time?

It should do! In the first year of the course (AS) the internally assessed work - a research study on a topic you choose and a book review that you choose - counts for 40% of the marks so you will only do well if you give this work the attention it deserves. This shouldn’t all be in your own private study time, your teacher will almost certainly arrange for some class time to be spent in preparation and completion of these tasks.

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What is problem based learning?

The idea of problem based learning is that you start with a question and then go about finding out what you need to know to find an answer. The point is that you always know WHY you are learning something and you only have to learn what you need to deal with the issue.

For example, in a biology course you might be taught various bits of scientific knowledge about cells and how they reproduce and develop to form a foetus; in Science in Society you will start with a problem that needs an answer such as, “Should we use expensive intensive medicine to keep a very premature baby (22 weeks) alive or should it be allowed to die?” and you then find out what you need to know about developing foetal cells to answer the question.

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I want to apply for medicine. Will this course help me get a place?

You certainly need good specialist science A Levels for medicine but entry is competitive and you can give yourself an advantage by undertaking work that involves communication with people (e.g. voluntary work in a hospital) and shows wider interests. We know of several students who have used their internally assessed work to pursue medical interests and then done well at interview for medical school when talking about their work. The initial entry exam for medical courses (BMAT) includes some topics and skills that are practised and developed in the first part of the Science in Society course.

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I am a chemist. Would I be able to teach the course?

Yes, but clearly you will need to spend some time in preparation. The actual science explanations do not demand biology or physics beyond GCSE. Most science teachers find that the more exciting change in teaching a course like this is the more open-ended discussion and relation of scientific knowledge to issues in the real world. This can involve some teaching techniques (such as small group discussion, role play, communication of an argument to express an opinion) that are less common in science labs than other classes.

Some teachers have found that dividing the course between a physical scientist and a life scientist works well. You might consider this if you feel uncomfortanle with the life sciences - there are some other benefits to team teaching.

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How many hours a week do you need to teach the course?

Science in Society is a full A level. Each year is fully funded by LSC for 180 guided learning hours in a normal advanced curriculum. Our schemes of work assume that you will spend 120 hours teaching the content each year (about 4 hours a week) with additional time spent on preparing and supervising the internally assessed work, examination preparation and so on.

Some centres have found that is possible to deliver the AS level successfully in a shorter time slot (e.g. as part of the enrichment curriculum) but this is a decision that only you can take based on particular circumstances (e.g. an option for brighter science students, ‘gifted and talented’ Year 11s).

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Will we have to buy a lot of extra resources to teach the course?

All the resources on this website are freely available and that is all you need in addition to a copy of the textbook. There is no need for a laboratory to be timetabled, there is no need for any practical work or technician time. Your students will need access to ICT resources for their internally assessed work and for some of the activties on this web site.


What sort of support is provided to help teachers new to the course?

In the past AQA required attendance at a standardising meeting if you were assessing for the first time; this isn't the case now.  Teachers need not attend a meeting but access the materials via e-AQA (signing up to the email list and/or checking the subject page on the website are the best ways to monitor when the materials go live).  This website provides access to an e-mail list that provides a network of fellow teachers (including the senior examiners) who will reply to queries and respond to your problems.

This website and the e-mail list will advertise support courses arranged either directly by the project team or in conjunction with the Science Learning Centre Network. The project team also provides an annual student conference that provides further networking opportunities.

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What resources are available to support the course?

The textbook is published by Heinemann and this website contains a complete outline scheme of work with matching teaching resources. The project team is always available for advice. See the who to contact page for more details.

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Does the course have academic credibility?

We developed the course in consultation with a range of ‘experts’ in higher education and from national organisations such as the Royal Institution, the British Association for the Advancement of Science and the Royal Society.

The course is recognised as a full A/AS level for university entry with full UCAS points.

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Do we have to do practical work as part of the course?

No. Many schools and colleges do not teach the course in a laboratory and there is no practical requirement in the specification or in our scheme of work. Some teachers do find it helpful to give the occasional appropriate demonstration but this is not essential or expected.

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What is available for teaching about ethical issues?

The Nuffield Council on Bioethics provides useful resources for teaching about ethical issues in science. See Nuffield Council on Bioethics.

 


Will my school get full funding for running AS and A Level Science in Society?

LSC has released the proposed funding arrangements for next year. SiS will receive the same funding as most A level courses, i.e. 150 guided learning hours for AS and the same again for A2. This compares with General Studies funding going down to 36 guided learning hours, Critical Thinking keeps the standard 150 guided learning hours for next year but still "under review".

You might be interested that Perspectives on Science is no longer an AS Level but re-worked as one version of the new Extended Project which gets 120 guided learning hours.

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Am I allowed to help my students with the coursework?

Yes - you are teaching them new skills. What this means is that you supervise and give guidance to the work. What you cannot do is do the work for the student (so for example, your marking of drafts should NOT consist of corrections but rather of questions and comment to help the student come back with a better second draft). You should also teach particular skills (such as referencing and evaluation of research sources).

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How can I ensure that I am marking the coursework to the right standard?

In the past AQA required attendance at a standardising meeting if you were assessing for the first time, this isn't the case now.  Teachers need not attend a meeting but access the materials via e-AQA (signing up to the email list and/or checking the subject page on the website are the best ways to monitor when the materials go live). 

This website and the e-mail list will advertise support courses arranged either directly by the project team or in conjunction with the Science Learning Centre Network. The project team also provides an annual student conference that provides further networking opportunities.

Centres all have a dedicated coursework adviser (controlled assessment adviser in some subjects) for Science in Society. If you are not aware of who it is then you should contact AQA for the coursework advisor, who can help with both generic advice and specific guidance on worries you may have with coursework issues.

AQA are not able to offer free CPD; so, schools and colleges will have to pay for a visit by a senior examiner (the service is available if you contact the CPD team to arrange a visit).

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