The Nuffield Science Teaching Project began in 1962. One of the first problems tackled by the project was the teaching of O-level biology, chemistry and physics. Nuffield Biology was planned as a five-year programme up to age of 16. The project team produced a textbook for students and a parallel Teachers’ Guide for each year of the course.
- To develop and encourage an attitude of curiosity and enquiry
- To develop a contemporary outlook on the subject
- To develop an understanding of man as a living organism and his place in nature
- To foster a realisation of the variety of life and of underlying similarities among living things
- To encourage a respect and feeling for all living things
- To teach the art of planning scientific investigations, the formulation of questions, and the design of experiments (particularly the use of controls)
- To develop a critical approach to evidence
- To develop the a number of key ideas about biology as part of human endeavour.
Key ideas about biology
- Biology has been developing over many centuries: there are many unanswered questions about life; our ideas of life may change as new knowledge is obtained
- That biological knowledge is the product of scientists working in many different parts of the world. Its pursuit is international
- That it is based not only on observation and experimentation but also on questioning, the formulation of hypotheses, testing of hypotheses, and, above all, on communication between people
- That developments in chemistry, physics, and mathematics are helping us to make advances in biology.
Structure of the course
The course was presented in two parts: the first two years which were regarded as introductory, and the remaining three which constituted the next (intermediate) phase leading to GCE O-level. The introductory phase was characterised by a broad general approach to the subject. In the intermediate phase the treatment became more quantitative with greater emphasis on experimentation and reasoning.
In the preface the project team stated that any course very largely succeeds or fails because of the way it is taught. The writers suggested that how we teach is certainly as important as what we teach. Like other Nuffield courses at the time, Nuffield Biology placed great emphasis on practical work carried out by students. The purpose of this was to encourage a spirit of enquiry. In class practical work the accent was either on using information, techniques, and concepts or on working them out. So these were essentially seen as an investigatory or problem-solving activities. Teacher demonstrations were included as a method of imparting a piece of information, describing a concept or technique, or introducing a point for discussion, without the trial and error confusion that invariably plays a part in class work.