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Human & Social Biology Blog by author Niva Miles

Human & Social Biology Blog by author Niva Miles

One of the unintended consequences of coronavirus is the way the public have responded to the science. Many people have shown a keen interest in the natural world as demonstrated by the plethora of discussions on social media and TV – not only about the virus but broader concepts that can be explored from a personal viewpoint. As teachers of Biology, and Human and Social Biology in particular, we may longer need to explain the relevance of our subject to those who moan “What’s the point of learning this?”

Science can be a favourite subject when it connects to students’ life experience. The 7th Edition of Macmillan’s HSB textbook has many examples of how the subject links to the Real World of Caribbean young people and to Future developments in health and environmental issues.

The introduction of the SBA is an opportunity to explore problems that directly impact our students and of course allows them the chance to get up to 20% of the marks before entering the stressful environment of an exam room. Some teachers will already be familiar with the process of preparing candidates and submitting an SBA to the exam board but for less confident teachers, and those new to the system, it can be a daunting prospect.

The key to success is careful planning and finding out as much as possible in advance by reading the syllabus section on the SBA and by using all the material available from CXC.

Finding suitable topics for the SBA can be a big stumbling block for weaker students but the textbook is full of ideas which are highlighted throughout the book as Project Topics. These are also supported by Project Skills where guidance is given on how to draw graphs and charts, how to ask open and closed questions for surveys, for example, and include constant reminders of the SBA requirements.

Exemplar SBAs with commentaries have been designed to show the student what is required for each of the ten sections of the written report. We have deliberately not attempted a ‘perfect answer’ as there will always be some subjectivity in the marking! Instead, two different SBAs illustrate the possible pitfalls and how to improve the report.

My advice for a new teacher is to prepare a calendar for the stages of the SBA (the book offers suggestions) but I suggest you keep deadlines fairly short – most students leave things to the last minute and often forget the dates. As you progress through the syllabus you will get SBA ideas from the textbook which will prompt further suggestions during lessons. Encourage students to log their ideas so they are not faced with a blank page when deciding on their title.

Remember that the SBA is worth 20% of the exam marks – in theory this can justify using 20% of the teaching time but we are all aware that this is in short supply and if managed well can largely be done at home.

For new teachers – look at the CXC marking criteria and follow this while marking each report. As a coursework assessor I valued the annotations teachers wrote in the margin – if you explain why (or where) you have given a mark it can help the moderator to accept it. To save time the annotations could be abbreviations of the marking points.

Good luck!

Words by author, Niva Miles

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Human and Social Biology comes with Online Interactions that help understanding of key concepts. Read more about the book here

 

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