Any Level 3 course is a rigorous programme of study, whether it’s A Levels or BTEC. As well as being a passport to a degree course, they’re extremely important in terms of developing essential knowledge and skills. Throughout the length of their Level 3 course, a student is expected to develop various theoretical, practical and personal skills.
Ofsted inspection and Quality Control often report that weaknesses can be due to lack of planning to meet the individual needs of learners. It is assumed that students with a clutch of A/A* in GCSEs are able to work independently to a high level, until we see their actual results through formal assessment. It’s often the case that they don’t have the practical or organisational skills they need for Higher Education until they go through a Level 3 programme.
On a Level 3 course, students not only learn from their teacher’s experience, but they tend to do better in other aspects of their curriculum. For example, at Level 3, students gain interpersonal and communication skills and adapt to different styles of learning that are transferable skills for future employment or higher education. Nowadays, we have constant access to information but it is important to understand and effectively convert this information into knowledge and skills.
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” (Einstein).
Over the past few years, A Level results have had a slight drop in success rate due to the introduction of more challenging questions which really test the candidates. However, the practical aspect and personal all-round development must be improved alongside this.
Source: School Week 2018, Cath Murray
Teaching and assessment requires exploration of emotional and practical learning needs, analysis of their strengths and areas for development and how to make and use of resources (Petty, 2001). In the case of science subjects, a good balance of theory and practical prepares learners much better for their undergraduate programmes. Science education is too precious to be wasted. All Level 3 courses demand a lot of organised study which very often students take for granted. The transition from GCSE to A Levels or BTEC lands students in a new environment, and most of these students won’t have had much chance to develop their practical science skills in their GCSEs. A key strategy is to plan exciting, challenging lessons that stretch students’ thinking.
Students must learn be observant in many ways so that they can learn and retain information effectively. Observation is more than just noticing details to answer set questions, it involves engaging with your environment, paying close attention to detail, and using logic and imagination. These are skills which teachers must make sure their learners pick up throughout their course of study as they are key to learning science.
This idea is highlighted in the following Chinese proverb:
I hear it and I forget.
I see it and I remember.
I do it and I understand.
In 21st century, technology connects us to unlimited resources and communication channels optimised to grab our attention. Emails, messaging, phone calls, and the internet, announced by a ping are almost always in our hands or pockets. When used appropriately, these powerful tools keep us on track and can help resolve problems in college and the workplace. But they can also distract learners both at home and at college. Young people are well versed in these technologies, to the detriment of reading from books and journals and freely writing without the use of a computer. This highlights the need for teachers to train students in writing skills, which will serve them well both at University and in their future career when writing science reports.
Technology has not just had an impact on writing skills, but a recent shocking report indicated that new surgeons tend to struggle with surgical skills, such as suturing a wound, due their lack of dexterity from overuse of technology. ‘Young people have so little experience of craft skills that they struggle with anything practical’ (Kneebone, 2018). "It is important and an increasingly urgent issue," says Prof Kneebone, who warns medical students “might have high academic grades but cannot cut or sew”. This highlights a need for Level 3 programmes to include more practical laboratory and work-related experience. The government’s plan to introduce T Levels for all 16-18 in 2020 is aimed at improving student skills and experience and making sure they’re ready for employment, as there is currently a clear shortage.
Most Sixth Form and FE colleges have proved to have consistently good to outstanding teaching, with teachers that have excellent subject knowledge and demonstrate a passion and love for their subject. This is where a lesson plan with individualised targets for action is needed. The students must also be given chance to work independently of their teachers, which will be more productive if the students are also given SMART target and evidence of work to be checked. Even an outstanding school or college could fail to recognise weaker students if the right intervention is not carried out on time.
There is always demand for STEM related knowledge and experience, as it is an area that is continually growing and developing. This means that it’s vital to prepare science students for Higher Education to give them the best chance at success. A Level science subjects such as Biology, Chemistry and Physics have varied popularity and choice by gender in the UK. Biology is still the most popular (63%) subjects and more girls than boys take it. This is followed by Chemistry at 52% where there is less girls and Physics stands at 36% popularity despite the government’s drive to increase females in these subjects. BTEC has different statistics since all the various Units make up the course as a whole. It is encouraging to see that the total number females have increased from 3.9 to 7.8% in recent years (BTEC, 2017).
About the Author
Kishore Teelanah is a former Psychiatric Nurse in Sutton, Surrey for six years. Afterwards, he chose to study Biochemistry as a mature student and started lecturing in Science in Further Education. He has taught science; mostly Biology, Chemistry, Biomedical Science and Forensic Science to levels 3 and 4 for over 30 years. From his enthusiasm of getting students into work experience and good connections with the NHS and the wider world, he is currently a Lead in Industry Placement at Central Bedfordshire College. In his teaching career, he developed different ways of teaching for students to be more work-ready and for higher education and other training. As a British-Mauritian, he has also written articles for Mauritius Times about first and second-generation Mauritians. He also explored how other Mauritians have established themselves in the UK since they came as far back as 1960s. Kishore lives in Bedfordshire and specialises in many different varieties of bamboos in his garden. He is keen in writing blogs and other articles on science, especially teaching and learning.
 Petty, G (2001) Teaching Today (Second Edition): Nelson Thornes