NQ Science blog

NQ Science

Archive for October, 2010

October 26th, 2010

Scottish Space School 2011

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, National Qualifications, Uncategorized

The Scottish Space School 2011 will take place at Strathclyde University from 12th to 17th June next year.  This fantastic residential experience is open to S5 pupils currently studying maths and science subjects at Higher level.    Last year, 12 lucky Space School students were selected to go on a follow-up learning visit to Houston, Texas.  

Applications to participate should be made via the Scottish Space School website. Don’t miss out!  Apply now!

October 26th, 2010

‘Open-Ended Questions’ promote creativity and thinking skills

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Open-Ended Questions, Scottish National Qualifications, SQA, Uncategorized

‘Open-ended questions’ will feature in the new SQA Higher examinations in Chemistry and Physics (see earlier posts).  These questions have no fixed response, and are designed to promote deeper understanding by encouraging learners to really think, rather than to merely recall facts.  

Sixty recent Higher Chemistry students from six diverse Scottish secondaries participated in preliminary trials of these questions in June 2010.   Their responses demonstrated impressive creativity and strong lateral thinking skills, as illustrated in the following selection of responses to a topical open-ended question on ‘teeth-whitening gels’:

Q/  Hydrogen peroxide is used in gels to whiten teeth.   The ion-electron equation for the oxidation of hydrogen  peroxide is shown below.  Using your knowledge of chemistry, comment on possible methods for measuring and comparing the concentration of hydrogen peroxide present in two different gels. 


Student 1: 

 ‘For a general idea of concentration, make a solution from the two different types of gel. Add potato disks, which contain the enzyme catalase, to catalyse the above reaction.  Add washing -up liquid to both solutions, and the oxygen will form a foamy top layer. The gel solution with the higher volume of foam has the higher concentration of hydrogen peroxide.’

Student 2:  

  • Measure the volume of oxygen given off in the breakdown of the the two gels
  • Make an aqueous solution of both gels and measure the pH difference
  • Measure which aqueous solution is more conductive
  • Use the gels on different teeth and view the different whitening-reaction times
  • Perform electrolysis and see which solution produces more hydrogen gas at the negative electrode


Student 3:

Hydrogen peroxide is a bleach, therefore the concentration could be determined by soaking a dyed material in equal volumes of the two gels for a fixed time. By finding out which one had the stronger bleaching effect, the concentrations could be compared.

Student 4:

  • Measure the rate of the decomposition of  hydrogen peroxide with manganese oxide catalyst. The faster the rate, the higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide.
  • Measure its conductivity, as there are electrons given off.  More electrons released shows that more hydrogen peroxide has decomposed, and so the higher the conductivty the more hydrogen peroxide present in the gel.
  • Measure the pH of the products. The lower the pH, the higher the concentration of hydrogen ions, and the higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide in the gel.

Student 5:

Add Universal Indicator to both gels. The colour formed would show their pH. The lower the pH the more acidic, so the higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide.

Student 6:

 Stick a piece of the same tooth or bone material into the two gels for the same amount of time.  The gel which has whitened the tooth or bone the most has the highest concentration of hydrogen peroxide in it.

What do you think? An astoundingly diverse array of excellent were produced when pupils were given the freedom to really think!

In a later post, we’ll look at the marking of open-ended questions.

October 21st, 2010

New Higher Chemistry Resources

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Higher Chemistry, National Qualifications, resources, Scottish National Qualifications

The  ‘Periodicity, Polarity & Properties’ half-unit of the revised Higher Chemistry contains many ‘traditional’ areas of chemistry which will be familiar to teachers of the current Higher e.g. structure & bonding, electronegativity, bond polarity, intermolecular forces, patterns in the periodic table, etc.  

These key topics are included in the modernised Higher because they are fundamentally important to the understanding of all other areas of chemistry.  However, pupils can often struggle to deal with the abstract concepts involved, and can sometimes find these topics dry.  

A brand-new set of animated powerpoint resources to enliven the learning & teaching of some of these more theoretical topics has just been published today on the National Qualifications page on the LTS website.  These attractive and engaging resources are suitable for use with both the current and the revised chemistry Highers, and cover the following topics:

  • The Arrangement of Elements in the Periodic Table 
  • Periodic Trends in Ionisation Energy & Covalent Radii
  • Periodic Trends in Electronegativity
  • Polar Covalent Bonds
  • Bonding Continuum


Watch this space for animations on intermolecular forces later in the year!

The resources could be used to introduce these topics, or as a revision resource for learners. Enjoy!

October 20th, 2010

Engaging Learners using ‘Case Studies’ in the new Higher Biology

Comments: none Tags: Tags: ,
 : Categories case studies, Higher Biology, National Qualifications, resources, Scottish National Qualifications

A  novel feature of the new National Qualification in Higher Biology will be the ‘case study’.  Case studies can be used to deliver modern, topical Biology content in an innovative and interesting way.  They involve enquiry-based learning and allow students to develop the essential practical and research skills needed in the world of science and work. 

A team of writers is currently creating a variety of exciting ‘case study’ resources on behalf of LTS.  Case studies currently under production include, for example;

  •  Behaviour in Primates, in conjuntion with Edinburgh Zoo
  •  Stem Cell Research and its future medical and ethical implications
  •  PCR and its applications in modern biology


Case studies will give biology students  the opportunity to engage with cutting edge science, and to apply this to their learning in class. Case study resources will become available on the NQ section of the LTS website and also through the Biology NQ Glow group over the next few months.

Watch this space!

October 20th, 2010

Investigating the Unknown – ‘Bang goes the Theory!’

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Advanced Higher investigations, Higher Biology, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, National Qualifications, Researching Chemistry, Researching Physics, resources, Scottish National Qualifications, Uncategorized


The new Highers in Chemistry and Physics contain a ‘Researching Chemistry’ half-unit in which students learn about the key skills of scientific enquiry, and then apply and develop these skills via investigation into a topical scientific issue. 

Teachers will find the BBC video clip above from the TV programme ‘Bang Goes the Theory’ on ‘How to Investigate the Unknown’ to be a useful introduction to the concepts involved in scientific research.  It is based on research into factors affecting the effectiveness of ‘canister rockets’, but could be re-applied to any other research topic.

The weblink also gives interesting additional background reading and suggested activities.  The resource could also be used to introduce investigative activities in any scientific context, especially Adavanced Higher investigations.


October 19th, 2010

Physics and Maths curriculum makeover

Comments: none Tags: Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
 : Categories Higher Biology, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, Open-Ended Questions, Scottish National Qualifications, Uncategorized

Open-ended questions will be included in the new Physics and Chemistry Highers.  They are designed to promote creative thinking and to challenge students to take the initiative and push the boundaries in their own learning.

This short, thought-provoking video from the TED Talks series shows American maths teacher  Dan Meyer deconstructing traditional Physics and Maths questions, in order to generate discussion and engage learners through real life situations. His ideas are relevant for engaging learners in Biology and Chemistry at all levels, as well as in Physics.

One of the most interesting things Meyer does is to boil the maths/ physics question down to an everyday context, thereby opening it up to students’ own experience and engaging learners.  In this way, Meyer states that every pupil can contribute to discussing and solving a maths/physics problem, whereas in the past they ‘switched off’.

Does this parallel what we are trying to achieve with open-ended questions?

October 7th, 2010

Calling all Early-Adopters of new Highers in Physics and Chemistry!

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories early-adopters, early-adopting schools, Higher Biology, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, SQA

The brand-new CfE-inspired Highers in Chemistry, Physics, Biology and Human Biology will be available for uptake by early-adopting schools from 2011 -2012.  LTS are currently working in partnership with SQA, SSERC and the Scottish Government to develop a package of support which can be offered to early-adopting schools. 

Andy Shield at SQA is currently collating a list of schools who may be interested in adopting the new Highers in CHEMISTRY and PHYSICS next year.  If you think your school may be interested, or you would like more information, please contact Andy as soon as possible at andrew.shield@sqa.org.uk .

October 6th, 2010

‘Open-Ended’ Questions in the new Chemistry & Physics Highers

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Glow, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, National Qualifications, Open-Ended Questions, resources, Scottish National Qualifications, SQA

One of the main objectives of the current revision of the new Higher Sciences is to promote deeper understanding, creativity and analytical thinking, in line with the principles of Curriculum for Excellence.  In order to help achieve this, SQA plan to include a small number of so-called ‘open-ended questions’ within the new Higher examinations in Chemistry and Physics .

Two excellent resources entitled ‘Support Materials for Open Ended Questions in Higher Chemistry‘ and ‘Support Materials for Open Ended Questions in Higher Physics’  have recently been published on the NQ Support page of the LTS website.   These resources provide a rationale for the introduction of OEQs in each subject, describe what ‘open-ended questions’ are, give a number of examples of questions with sample pupil answers, and advise on the marking of open-ended questions.

More information from recent extensive pupil trials of open-ended questions to follow in another post!

October 5th, 2010

National Qualifications support for Sciences on Glow

Comments: none Tags:  : Categories Glow, Higher Biology, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, National Qualifications, Scottish National Qualifications

Calling Scottish teachers of  National Qualifications in Chemistry, Physics & Biology! Have you checked out our all-new NQ Science Glow Groups

In these Glow groups you’ll find ‘hot of the presses’ resources which have been produced to support the new Highers, as well as useful weblinks. There’s also a blog updating you on the latest news in your subject, a forum where you can ask questions or discuss with other practioners,  and a link to ‘CPDfind’ to assist professional development.

Why not have a look and see what’s there for you!

NQ Chemistry Glow Group

NQ Physics Glow Group

NQ Biology Glow group

October 4th, 2010

BBC Media Resources to support the new Higher Sciences

Comments: 1 Comment Tags:  : Categories BBC Bitesize, BBC Learning Zone, Higher Biology, Higher Chemistry, Higher Physics, Higher Sciences, Media Clips, National Qualifications, Scottish National Qualifications

The NQ Sciences team met with two representatives from the BBC Scotland Learning team today.  The purpose of our meeting was to provide the Beeb with an update on the changes to content and course structure of the new Highers in Chemistry and Physics, so that they can plan ahead to adapting their excellent ‘Bitesize‘ revision resources .  You can see the Higher Bitesize revision sites for Chemistry, Physics or Biology –  they’re excellent resources! 

We had a very fruitful meeting, and tried to identify each organisation’s areas of strength, so that we avoid duplication of effort in the future!  One of the most exciting things to come out of this meeting was to find out that the BBC are very keen to be involved in providing scientific video clips  to support the new Higher Science curricula, both via their own excellent ‘Learning Zone’, or potentially even embedded into the LTS website.  help with this!  What BBC programmes or clips would you love to have available to help you teach the new Higher in your Science subject?!  All suggestions very welcome!


About This Blog

National Qualifications in the Science subjects are being modernised and updated in line with Curriculum for Excellence. This blog provides latest information on the developments taking place. Watch this space for new resources, information on CPD opportunities, news updates, etc!