Understanding of enzymes is a fundamental requirement of biology and the key to understanding biological processes and biochemical reactions. Students need to apply their understanding of proteins and chemical bonds to account for the structure and properties of enzymes. They will also need to explain how certain factors such as temperature and pH can affect an enzyme’s tertiary structure.
Use of modelling can be effective in the early stages of this topic, particularly in helping students to make links with previous learning on biological molecules. Models can also help students to appreciate the three dimensional complexity of tertiary structure rather than simple two-dimensional diagrams that are often found in textbooks, and help to explain theories such as lock and key and induced fit more clearly. Simulations can be useful in helping students to view dynamic processes such as collisions between substrate molecules and enzyme active sites.
In terms of practical work, there are probably more potential investigations to choose from than any other area of biology. Investigations can be carried out on any named factor that affects the rate of enzyme activity and can range from simple experiments to complex investigations that require a lot of preparation. Many investigations can be related to industrial contexts and simple analogues of industrial processes can sometimes be used in school/college science. When choosing practical investigations to conduct with your class, it is important to be clear as to the purpose – in some cases, you may wish to focus on developing their practical skills, in other cases you may wish to focus on linking theory to practice or interpreting and explaining data. Establishing a sequence, where you can help students to progress their skills and knowledge is key. For more advice, please refer to the Education Endowment Foundation’s guidance on practical work.