Growth and Development of Cells

In GCSE Biology, students need to understand that for an organism to grow cells must divide, they need to be able to describe the process of mitosis as part of the cell cycle. This will enable them to understand the importance of cell differentiation as the production of specialised cells allows organisms to become more efficient. Students should be able to describe how cancer can result from changes in cells that lead to uncontrolled growth and division.

The role of meiotic division needs to be understood and students should be able to explain how this process results in the halving of the chromosome number to form gametes.

Often cell division is a concept which students struggle to grasp and it is just seen as a set of pictures that they need to memorise, without any real understanding of the processes involved.

A common misconception is that the cells are just "bigger" in fully developed organisms than the cells in developing organisms. Students do not always appreciate that developed organisms have more (not bigger) cells due to cell division. It is important to develop understanding of why cells need to divide and specialise. Students need to be clear on the challenges that would be posed if cells were large in terms of removal of waste products and obtaining required nutrients.

Using a range of teaching strategies that require students to actively get involved can promote much better understanding: providing groups of students with something as simple as pipe cleaners (for chromatids), string (for spindles) and a way of videoing (a mobile phone)--then asking them to produce their own 2 minutes video to demonstrate the process of cell division is a useful activity.

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