Comberton Village College was originally opened in 1960 as one of the Cambridgeshire Village Colleges, expanding to open a sixth form in 2011, and is central to the Comberton Education Trust. Over 150 students study A Levels at the college each year, and achieve results well above the national average.
The new practical endorsement in A Level Chemistry requires students to apply investigative approaches to their practical work and use research skills using online and offline sources. In addition their A levels, the school wants to help students prepare for potential STEM careers.
Nadine Johnson, Deputy Head of Science at Comberton, said, "We wanted to engage all our students, even those who were not expecting to continue study of Chemistry in Year 13.”
Working within OCR practical endorsement structure, Nadine set her students a challenge to complete a practical investigation to fulfil the requirements of PAG 12 research skills. Taking advantage of the flexibility of the OCR model, Nadine chose a set of problem-based practical activities freely available from the Royal Society of Chemistry. Students considered how their practical skills had developed over the year, and chose an investigation to help them bridge any gaps and reinforce what they already knew.
The practical project ran over the six weeks after the AS exam period. There was plenty of flexibility built in to help deal with the inevitable student absences from lessons due to university visits and other subject’s trips.
“The outcomes of this project were fascinating, giving the teachers a much better insight into the independent study skills of the cohort. It was easy to spot the group who left their presentations until the last possible moment, and (more pleasingly) the sheer determination the students showed to succeed. Students thoroughly enjoyed the experience and challenge, and commented that they enjoyed “the independence” of the activity.”
In addition, all of the projects had required students to learn some Year 13 chemistry content for themselves, giving them a jump start for September. Professional scientists were invited in to judge the students work, and provide lectures on how they use science in their day-to-day work. The best overall project was then decided amongst the teachers and guest speakers.
Overall, the six-week project was a positive experience for all involved, and the school has rolled the project out to all sciences. The science department is “determined to encourage students to approach their learning in a more self-reflective way, particularly when it comes to their investigative work.”
OCR can provide guidance on the suitability of practical tasks via firstname.lastname@example.org and further information of Comberton’s project is also now available.
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