Cambridge Pre-U Biology – a few thoughts

I have now taught two terms of this new post-16 Biology qualification to two year 12 groups.  It is very early to be making judgements on the quality of the course but there is one thing about this course that is over-whelming:  it is MASSIVE….  I don’t know if I am losing track of the pace of my post-16 teaching but I cannot ever remember in 20 years having to rush through so many topics.

The content is pretty standard and comparable to A level I would say, but why is there so much of it?  It irritates me beyond belief to feel that I have to rush in the classroom just to cover the basics of the syllabus.  If the aim is to promote independent learning among students then the sheer volume of the specification has the absolute opposite effect.  My understanding of “independent learning” is not just to let the students do it in their own time with no input/help/feedback from the teacher. I want students to learn independently and to take initiative for their learning but I also want to be able to help/guide/assess their learning and there simply isn’t time to do this properly.

So please Cambridge, when you come to review this specification for the next draft, please can you remove about 25% of the content?  There is nothing “rigorous” about a massive specification:  it rewards a rather dull and limited approach to learning and removes the time needed for a less didactic teaching style.  I want our post-16 biologists to finish their course with a deep understanding of the beauty of the natural world, having had the time to make interesting links between subject areas and with a skill-set as learners that will set them up for the next stage of their lives.  I remain to be convinced that this course is going to manage that.

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