GCSE Biology students need to be able to explain how the structure of the nervous system, including the Central nervous system, sensory and motor neurons and sensory receptors are all adapted to their particular functions. Students must be able to explain how the structure of a reflex arc is related to its function. They must also know how the main structures of the eye are related to their functions, and link this to common defects of the eye and possible ways that these defects may be overcome. GCSE Biology students need to describe the structure and function of the brain, and also explain some of the difficulties of investigating brain function, along with the limitations in treating damage and disease in the brain and other parts of the nervous system.
Misconceptions with this topic area are often seen in relation to receptors and effectors, with students confusing the two and also students failing to appreciate that electrical impulses are not sent directly to muscles (for example). A possible approach to support understanding is that of modelling the system using students to represent the component parts of a process, such as a reflex arc, synaptic transmission etc.
For example lines of students holding hands can be the axon of an effector neuron, when they receive a stimulus (ringing phone/buzzer), a mexican wave can illustrate the electrical impulse travelling down the axon. There are numerous possibilities with this approach and once students are familiar with it, groups of students can be tasked with working out how the class (or their group) can represent particular processes physically.
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