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Teaching Chemistry as a Biology Graduate

Discussion in 'Science' started by fingertapper, Feb 16, 2007.

  1. I'm writing this on behalf of my girlfriend who graduated in Biology last year. She is more interested in teaching Chemistry rather than Biology, but can't do her PGCE in Chemistry without doing the Chemistry conversion course first. We were wondering what any HODs think about this - would you recommend she does the conversion course or would you allow her to teach a combination of Biology and Chemistry up to A level? She has a Chemistry A level at grade A and has done several Chemistry related modules in her degree. Any advice appreciated.
     
  2. I'm writing this on behalf of my girlfriend who graduated in Biology last year. She is more interested in teaching Chemistry rather than Biology, but can't do her PGCE in Chemistry without doing the Chemistry conversion course first. We were wondering what any HODs think about this - would you recommend she does the conversion course or would you allow her to teach a combination of Biology and Chemistry up to A level? She has a Chemistry A level at grade A and has done several Chemistry related modules in her degree. Any advice appreciated.
     
  3. I wouldn't recommend it, speaking as a chemistry graduate who teaches A-level chemistry. An A-level in the subject, even at grade A will not provide the depth of understanding needed to teach the subject thoroughly, this only comes through study beyond A-level.
    The modules she did in her degree may make it possible, it would depend on what she did.
    I'm not trying to put her off it, and I would support anyone who wanted to teach A-level chemistry, but I think it might be a good idea to take the conversion course, even if it delays things. You said she only graduated last year so she has plenty of time on her side !
     
  4. I have an A level in Biology and teach it to ks4 coz it's convenient to the school. I think they'll let her if it fits in with the timetable.
     
  5. earnie that's different .. I *don't* have an a-level in bio but still teach it to KS4 (probably not very well) .. however I wouldn't attempt as a chemist to teach A-level bio without a degree in it.

    To teach something well you should really have more knowledge than the spec you're teaching
     
  6. Hi I too am a biology graduate (circa 1988!!) and am starting my PGCE in Sept. When I did some obs before applying I quickly realised that I would probably struggle with the chem side of things as I had only gone to A level myself. I am currently doing a Chem enhancement course and if you get the chance I would highly recommend it so far the course has been fantastic and things are being taught from a teaching perspective and I already feel far more confident than I did before.
     
  7. marshypops

    marshypops New commenter

    It depends how desperate the school is and how supportive they are. I know of someone who was not a graduate in a particular science subject but with mentoring and support was being "developed" to teach it to A-level.

    As a Chemistry teacher, my advice would be for her to teach Biology, but then I'm biased.

    :))
     
  8. peterdevon

    peterdevon New commenter

    Couldn't she widen her options by doing a 'science' pgce, rather than 'chemistry'?
     
  9. My PGCE is in secondary science, even though I'm a chemist. We did most of the course all scientists together, with just the A level specialism bits in subject groups. Many of my fellow PGCE-ers have to teach outside their specialism up to GCSE level. Luckily I don't, finding the year tough enough as it is. I don't think many of us would want to teach up to A level in the other subjects though, even though I got an A in biology at A level and did some biology modules at uni I don't think I would want to teach it now. But at the start of my PGCE I did think I would be fine doing both. From the ecology, cell biology and biochemistry point I probaby would be but I'm not good on whole organisms thing and can't do dissections to save my life (as illustrated by last weeks butchering of heart for my yr 8s).

    However I would imagine a willingness to teach outside your specialism would be an asset when applying for job, a lot would depend on the schemes of work in the school and the support offered, you would not want to make an NQT year any harder than it needs to be.
     
  10. You want to make sure you avoid putting yourself in a position where you could get caught out. I have got some very bright students and sometimes they ask questions which can really put me on a spot, and I'm speaking as someone with a degree and a PhD in chemistry. e.g. "why is lead sulphate white but lead iodide is bright yellow" and "why do d-orbitals in transition metals split into 3 and 2 not 4 and 1 when forming a complex". I've been asked both of these.
    It's best to have a degree in the subject to teach it at A-level. I have an A-level in physics at grade A and did part 1 physics at university but I would never attempt to teach it at A-level.
    Some people are right here though, many schools will get you teaching anything if it suits them. Stick to what your qualified at is best to make sure the students get the best specilist knowledege they can.
     
  11. I'd say you *should* definately be able to explain why d-orbitals split into 3 and 2 .. most undergraduate inorganic chemistry is based on d-orbitals. I make sure my a-level kids know why because it's a lot easier to remember the split when you have an explanation
     
  12. I am a biology graduate teaching chemistry. At first I found it dificult as I only did chemistry in my first year at uni so it had been a while and I had forgotten loads.

    However, I bought some textbooks and got myself back up to scratch. I also teach biology so its nice to have a change.

    Thing is, right now, more chemistry teachers are needed than biology so you have a better change of getting a job.

    Good luck
     
  13. People with biochemistry degrees tend to manage to market themselves as chemistry teachers reasonably well (despite biochem being in the biology A-level spec not chemistry) but I think it would be difficult as a biology graduate. I have a degree and PhD in chemistry and used to demonstrate and do tutorials to undergrads and I'm still occasionally stumped by some of the questions the kids come out with. HODs will belled any willing victim but for her long term it would be better to stick to what she is trained in. I have volunteered to teach AS biology having grade A at A-level and the head of biology has said that she wouldn't want me to do it in my NQT year or 2nd year of teaching as I'm still coming to terms with the chem spec never mind a new subject. For my own sake she has said I should wait until I'm further down the line.

    There are more jobs in chemistry than biology but if you were up against a decently qualified chemist you would still be at a disadvantage. I'd imagin only in the absence of a suitably qualified chemist would they consider appointing a biologist for A-level teaching.
     
  14. "I'd say you *should* definately be able to explain why d-orbitals split into 3 and 2 .. most undergraduate inorganic chemistry is based on d-orbitals. I make sure my a-level kids know why because it's a lot easier to remember the split when you have an explanation"

    Are you saying they ought to know why they split at all or whey they specifically split into 3 and 2 for octahedral and 2 and 3 for tetrahedral (as opposed to say a 1, 4 split) ? If someone asked me I could of course explain it but as far as I am aware it's not something students have to know for A-level. For our students, they only have to be able to know that the d-orbitals split upon approach of a ligand but that's about it. Knowing why they go 3,2 requires knowledge of the symmetry and geometry of d-orbitals. Surely this is post A-level knowledge ?
     
  15. the kids don't need to know it but it's a lot easier to explain to them (and sticks a lot better) why you get the split than just to say "yeah they split into 3 and 2 - just learn it"
     
  16. I wasn't having a go or being arrogant by the way but if you re-read what you wrote you coan probably see why I was confused!

    1)
    "...they ask questions which can really put me on a spot, and I'm speaking as someone with a degree and a PhD in chemistry. e.g. ... "why do d-orbitals in transition metals split into 3 and 2 not 4 and 1 when forming a complex"

    2)
    "If someone asked me I could of course explain it"


    .. did you mean it would be difficult to explain to an A-level chemist?
     
  17. specko, don't worry I didn't take your answer as rude at all ! The answer I gave was in the context of the original question asked, and I was trying to justify why someone without a degree might find problems teaching A-level chemistry because of the sort of questions we discussed (about d-orbitals for example, which I doubt a non graduate could answer thoroughly). I agree that it's easier to remember if you have an explanation but I think many A-level students would stuggle with a discussion of orbital symmetry. However, a teacher should be able to explain if asked (and some bright students might).
     
  18. This thread gave me a headache! Looking it up reminds me of the module I had to take 6 times before I passed it! and i STILL dont have a clue!

    Probabily a good thing no one will give me a job!!

    Although I have to ask, given the option between confusing students, or telling them not to worry as they didnt need to know it, I know which option i'd choose, and which one my A level teacher used to use!
     
  19. I was offered a job teaching which involved teaching A'level physics (I'm a biology teacher) and I don't even have A'level physics myself!
     
  20. Thanks for your replies. Need to have a think!!!
     

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