‘Science practical offers students opportunities to develop skills for university applications’

Juan Visser is the regional director at Cambridge International. In this Interview, he speaks on the value that Cambridge International has over the years placed on science practicals as part of its science examinations. On the back of a successful A level Biology practical activation in Lagos, he examines how Practical Science is at the heart of studying scientific subjects. He speaks with Kelechi Ewuzie. Excerpts:

What is Cambridge International hoping to achieve with this A level Biology activation?

Cambridge International is unique in the value it places on science practicals as part of its science examinations. At Cambridge International A Level, practical work is compulsory and counts towards a final grade. This is because it is sound preparation for studying science at university.

To demonstrate how conducting a practical enhances the classroom learning experience, we invited journalists to take part in an A Level Biology practical experiment at a Cambridge School.

How significant is this A Level Biology practical experiment to the students as it relates to the general learning outcome for them to compete globally?

Practical Science is at the heart of studying scientific subjects. Each experiment helps students develop a sound understanding of how biology concepts and processes work, how the different areas of biology fit together as a course of study and gives them valuable opportunities to develop their skills and understanding as individual learners. Practicals can also give students an advantage with their university applications.

What do you think are the most important steps students should consider as they approach practical based learning as against only theoretical ones to help shape their innovative minds in the future?

Students have the opportunity to look across different aspects of a practical activity: planning an experiment or investigation, collecting, recording and presenting observations and measurements; analysing and interpreting their findings, and evaluating their methods and the quality of the data to suggest improvements to the experiment.

What are some of the practical experiments that you offer at Cambridge International?

Students gain marks in practical papers for the: manipulation of apparatus, measurement and observation; presentation of data and observations; analysis, conclusions and evaluation. Students will be expected to decide on the range of values for an independent variable, to include concentrations, temperature and pH.

They would be expected to collect quantitative and qualitative data, presenting appropriately and draw conclusions based on their analysis and evaluation. Students are expected to be familiar with light microscopy and the use of photomicrographs.

Would you say the lack of A Level Biology practical experiment in most schools in Nigeria is the reason most students fail to produce their best in most science related subjects?.

Access to practical experience is an important part of teaching and learning in biology, and learners benefit from taking part in different forms of practical activity. However, our learners all over the world demonstrate positive achievement in their courses through their theory as well as their practical assessment.

How many A Level Biology practical experiment do you carry out in a year and what is Cambridge International doing to ensure more students get interested?

We support teachers to deliver practical science through our support materials, on the School Support Hub, through the information and guidance available on the website and through our training.

We offer a wide range of science syllabuses to suit students with different abilities and career aspirations – whether they want a core science grading or wish to take their science studies further.

Is this science media activation the first in Nigeria, if yes, kindly share name of the school.

Yes it is the first. It was held at Oxbridge Tutorial College

What are the criteria in picking school for science activation?

We approached schools that offered Cambridge International A Level Science subjects.

What is the difference between Cambridge International A Level practical and Cambridge O Level practical?

Cambridge O Level courses are designed to support progression between Cambridge O Level and Cambridge International AS &A Level Biology, so where subject content develops between Cambridge O Level and Cambridge International A Level the practical activities progress in line with this. We have many commonalities between the requirements for practical assessment across the different levels of qualifications, but we would expect students at AS & A Level to demonstrate more independent learning skills and investigate more complex situations than at A Level.

Advanced Practical Skills require candidates to plan experiments and investigations, collect, record and present observations, measurements and make estimates, draw conclusions and evaluate methods and the quality of data and suggest possible improvements.

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