Aims

The Salters-Nuffield Advanced Biology course aims to:

    • motivate and enthuse teachers and students

    • use real-life contexts as a starting point for developing understanding of underpinning biological concept and principles making the relevance of learning obvious

    • revisit ideas through the course to build knowledge and confidence

    • employ a wide range of activities and practical work throughout the course to encourage students to take responsibility for their own learning and learn how biologist think and work

    • make use of a full range of teaching and communication approaches

    • provide excellent support materials for technicians, teachers and students.

During the development of the SNAB course, discussions with academic and other specialist biologists allowed us to identify those areas of biology that are key components of an advanced level course and expected to make a significant contribution to the future of the subject and to society in general.

The course takes account of the tremendous advances presently being made in the subject in areas such as molecular biology, cell biology, medical physiology, genetics, biotechnology, biodiversity, conservation, behaviour and evolutionary studies.

The course is designed to meet the needs of students who will go on to study biology further and also to ensure that those who do not continue with formal biology education have a valuable satisfying experience which will be relevant in their future lives.

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SNAB context building Knowledge through the course 

SNAB topics include contexts and applications of biology as the starting point for developing biological understanding. Topic 1 does not start with cell biology or biochemistry, instead there is but an account of two real people: Mark, a 15-year-old, had a stroke, and Peter, an adult had a heart attack. The topic looks at the biology which explains what happened to Mark and Peter, including the biochemistry of fats and carbohydrates. Along with the biology, there is a discussion of the risk factors which contribute to a stroke or heart attack.

In SNAB there is not, for example, a topic labelled ‘biochemistry’ containing everything on carbohydrates, fats, proteins and nucleic acids. In SNAB these building blocks are broken up into a number of smaller ones spread through the course. In this way information is presented in manageable chunks and grafted onto existing knowledge, leading to better understanding.

Other large molecules such as phospholipids and proteins are introduced later, in Topic 2, where they are relevant to the context.

Presenting content via stimulating contexts where the relevance of learning is immediately obvious motivates students. Students exhibit greater enthusiasm for, and confidence in, the subject. The context-led approach of the course also encourages the student to recognise the links between the different areas of biology.

Key concepts and skills

SNAB presents the key concepts underpinning biology today. Students also learn the wider experimental and investigative skills needed by modern biologists, including the ability to make judgements about the quality of scientific evidence. How Science Works is integrated into the contexts, providing an exploration of the processes and culture of the scientific community. SNAB A-level biologists develop skills such as practical techniques and research mirroring the way in which these are used by professional biologists.

The biology taught within this course is within a context so that it is clear to students why they are learning a particular biological principle. In the same way, the purpose and utility of skills being learned should always be clear to students.

A skills support section offers additional tutorials in practical work, mathematics, biochemistry, ICT (such as data-logging and use of software packages for presentation and analysis of results), and exams and coursework.

In addition to the skills support mentioned above, the 2008 SNAB materials include activities developed by the Science Enhancement Programme's Learning Skills for Science post-16 project.

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Interactive learning  

Using the SNAB resources encourages an active style of learning. Students learn through a wide variety of activities integrated throughout the course, from standard practicals to model-building and role plays, together with electronic tutorials and animations. The activities challenge students to engage with ideas and evidence, working individually or in groups. The teacher's role is more to do with guiding and explaining rather than transmitting factual information.

The ICT resources that accompany the course include a wide range of interactive tutorials and animations.  Each one has a student worksheet to ensure engagement with a clearly defined task. The tutorials can be used by individual students or whole classes, and are ideal for encouraging collaborative learning in pairs or small groups.

Developing wider skills 

Activities integrated through the course employ a wide range of teaching and learning styles, they not only introduce content and experimental techniques but are designed to develop a host of other skills including data analysis, critical evaluation of information, communication and collaborative work. Developing these types of skills is an integral part of the SNAB course.

Independent learning is an important ability that it is intended students will develop as a result of undertaking the activities. This does not mean that students should be left to get on with things on their own; instead they learn to work things out for themselves, make links between ideas, draw on existing knowledge, apply this knowledge to new situations and take responsibility for their own learning. They are developing skills that are valuable in higher education or future employment. 

Social and ethical debate

Professional biologists and individual citizens will face difficult ethical decisions.Through active debate and discussion, students develop their ability to form opinions about social and ethical issues and to support their opinions with well-thought-through arguments, using a clear framework.

Resources

Full-colour textbooks for the course are fully complementary to multi-media resources provided through a subscription website. See further details about our Resources. The textbooks contain the contexts and biological principles.

The publishers' website www.snabonline.com provides learning resources such as topic introductions, GCSE reviews, self-marking tests, interactive animation, simulations and tutorials. Downloadable student worksheets are accompanied by teachers' support and technicians' notes. The student area is separate from the teachers' and technicians' area of the website.

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