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Collins AQA GCSE Chemistry for Combined Science

Title: AQA GCSE (9-1) Chemistry for Combined Science: Trilogy 9-1 Student Book
Resource type:
 Student Books
Publisher:
 Collins
ISBN:
 Chemistry 978-0-00-817505-4
Publication Date: June
2016
Format:
 Paperback
RRP: 
£12.99
Ages:
 KS4 GCSE (age 14-16)
Link: 
www.collins.co.uk/page/GCSE+Science/

ASE Expert Evaluation: 

Introduction

Following the major overhaul of the science GCSE specifications, it is refreshing to see that Collins has responded appropriately by completely rewriting its textbooks. This evaluation of the AQA GCSE Chemistry takes a fairly detailed look at how the textbook meets the needs of the new specification with its higher demand. The book is quite lengthy at around 300 pages, but it uses these well to cover the specification content whilst giving good support for assessment, mathematics demand and required practicals.

Structure

The book is structured as ten chapters, which match the ten areas of the AQA specification.  The first chapter of the book quite rightly deals with atomic structure and the periodic table, as these are fundamental concepts for the whole course.  Each chapter consists of a series of spreads that cover the content of the specification and the demand builds progressively throughout each chapter.  At the start of each chapter, there is a useful spread that summarises prior learning and relates this to ideas that students will meet in the coming chapter. Towards the end of each chapter, there is a ‘key concept’ spread, which focuses on a core idea in detail, and is highly relevant to the topic.  Each chapter also has a maths spread, which addresses maths skills relevant to the chapter. 

Chapters may have one or more required practicals built in, dependent on where they fall within the specification. At the very end of the chapter, there is a useful differentiated self-assessment task for students, which enables them to check their progress.  This is followed by a series of questions, the first page of which provides students with worked examples.  These emphasise good examination techniques and model ‘good’ and ‘bad’ answers.  Each part-question has the relevant Assessment Objective identified and this is a very useful addition, focusing teachers and students on the need for application, analysis and synthesis skills.

Each part-question has the relevant Assessment Objective identified and this is a very useful addition, focusing teachers and students on the need for application, analysis and synthesis skills.

Each spread is laid out with a good amount of white space and the content is arranged as broadly two columns per page.  The text is readable, with relatively short sentences that avoid unnecessarily complex structures.  The text generally is aimed at students of all abilities.  

Differentiation

Following the title of the page, there are learning objectives that are phrased clearly for students.  The command words are as we might expect, using words such as ‘recognise’, ‘explain’, ‘describe’, ‘compare’ and ‘calculate’.  Also, at the top of each page, key words for the spread are identified, which again are very useful for students. The page is split into three differentiated levels, which are clearly identified by headings in different coloured fonts.  The first section heading has a green font, denoting the work as standard demand for all students.  It consists of text and pictures, but also has appropriately targeted questions.  The second section heading is in a blue font and is of intermediate demand.  Once again, there are appropriate level questions for this section.  The final section, which has a heading in maroon font, is the most demanding part of the page, targeted at the most able students and higher tier work. The questions at this level are very demanding, requiring students to use higher level thinking skills. Each page also has a ‘Key information’ section, which is highly useful to students and a ‘Did you know?’ box, which gives students interesting snippets of information.  Occasionally, a ‘Did you know?’ box will suggest a research task for students. Also to support research, there is a suggested Google search at the bottom of each right-hand page.

The end-of-chapter questions are nicely differentiated into four levels.  These are ‘getting started’, ‘going further’, ‘more challenging’ and ‘most demanding’.  The ‘most demanding’ questions in particular are very high demand and require the students to draw together information and ideas from across the chapter and possibly from earlier chapters.  For example, students are asked to explain why the atom with the electron pattern of 2,8,6 is a non-metal and why it is less reactive than the atom with an electronic pattern of 2,6 or 2,7.

Maths support

The mathematics spreads are a welcome addition to the textbook and complement nicely the maths that appears within the text itself.  For example, the maths spread in Chapter One deals with the standard form and making estimates.  It covers the mathematics skills well, but also explains why those mathematics skills are so important in science.  Once again, there is good differentiation throughout the spread, with the final section demanding a higher level of mathematical understanding and application.  For example, students are required to multiply numbers in standard form together and apply standard form numbers in an unfamiliar context: calculating the length of a mole of atoms arranged in a line, given the Avogadro number and a figure for the atomic radius in standard form.

It covers the mathematics skills well, but also explains why those mathematics skills are so important in science. 

Required practical activities

Required practicals are addressed by separate dedicated double page spreads.  The title of the required practical matches exactly with that within the specification, as might be expected.  However, the required practical is treated as a learning experience for students, developing their ‘working scientifically’ skills rather than acting purely as a practical activity.  Each spread has its own separate learning objectives and the spread is differentiated in a similar way to other pages, very nicely avoiding a recipe-type approach to the required practicals, and requiring students to think about aspects of the investigation rather than guiding them through it step by step.  Not only are they required to perform the practical, they are also required to analyse the results of the practical and suggest improvements to the investigation by applying ‘working scientifically’ principles. The teacher guide also identifies support and encourages many other opportunities for practical and investigative science in addition to the required practicals, guarding against schools doing the bare minimum.

Conclusion

The textbook has much to offer students of all abilities.  The most able students are well catered for as might be expected, but the differentiation of content and assessment tasks will work well for lower ability students.   It consists of a good balance of information and assessment, and nicely supports key ideas in chemistry and in the mathematics that supports it.