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Teachers’ perspectives: making connections

Teachers discussing how do you help students make connections with prior learning/other biological principles? Why make the links?
JENNY MCLARDY: I am a firm believer that there are around six big concepts in biology, for GCSE. So, to encourage students to make links between those concepts, I have displayed around my board the six big concepts, so that, when they’re giving me an answer, I’ll say, right, OK, that’s brilliant, but can you link that into one of those? And, nearly every time, they are able to do that. So, for example, we did a a required practical on decay for GCSE Biology using enzymes rather than bacteria, because it was the only way we could do it within the time frame.
So the students were fine saying, well, you know, I know the enzymes need an optimum temperature, but they couldn’t quite link that into bacteria. So we had to use our six concepts on the board. They had to think about bacteria. They had to think about respiration, which was also up there. They had to think about how enzymes might tie into that. So it’s all about making sure that they’re aware that they need to make those links, to be a good biologist. They need to draw everything that they know and try and find links everywhere. And I think having those concepts there for them to look at all the time really really does help them.
NADIA CALLOW-HUSSAIN: It is important to start, when you get into the second year of the linear exams, to start linking these thinking skills, so that they are able to bring in ideas from some of the things they learned early on into the topics that they’re doing later on, because they sort of pull in all sorts of different aspects, and then be able to pick on any one concept. For example, with diffusion, you can link it back to transport in plants. You can link it back to photosynthesis. And you’re looking at the movement of molecules, which goes right back to the beginning of the Biology syllabus.
In this video, the teachers we spoke to explain how they make connections across the biology and broader curriculum to support student learning.
  • Jenny uses key words around the board to help students to make links with previous topics
  • Students need to be able to connect topics they learned about earlier in school with new learning
  • Diffusion is a good example of a biological principle which features in many topics


Over the years we collect strategies for helping students to make links between topics. Select your favourite and share it below, with a link to an example if appropriate.
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