The 1999/2002 NSW Stage 6 Chemistry syllabus and Conquering Chemistry 4th edition

The fourth edition of Conquering Chemistry has been written to follow both the philosophy and content of the 1999–2002 syllabus as closely as possible (consistent with presenting chemistry in a logical and coherent way). 

Philosophy of the 1999/2002 syllabus

The philosophy of the syllabus is to

  • take materials, things, processes and problems that interest or concern students
  • explain how they are obtained/made/work/arise, and in so doing
  • introduce, develop and use chemical concepts.

This is called a ‘contextual’ or ‘thematic’ approach. It is strongly advocated by educationists who claim students are only motivated by matters that interest or affect them now, not what will concern them or be relevant to them in the future. They say that a ‘principles followed by applications’ approach does not work (although this author is not entirely convinced).

However such a contextual approach does have a difficulty for a hierarchical subject such as chemistry and that is finding suitable topics that allow for the introduction of chemical concepts in an orderly and logical sequence. This need for an orderly introduction of chemistry concepts has led to a collection of topics, particularly in the Preliminary Course, that students may find somewhat less than exciting or stimulating. The Chemical Earth seems rather bland, Water has been worked to death in earlier school years and Energy stops short of dealing with the really interesting topics of greenhouse effect, developing alternative (non-fossil fuel) energy sources and what appears to be a resurgence of the nuclear energy debate (which has been largely dormant since two nasty accidents in the mid 1980s).

The Preliminary Course (Year 11) is made up of four equal-sized modules with each module nominally occupies 7 weeks of class time for a total of three school terms.

Similarly the HSC Course (Year 12) has four equal-sized modules, 3 core and 1 option, again with each requiring 7 to 8 weeks work for a total of nearly four school terms (allowing some time for revision in Term 3 of Year 12 with the HSC exam starting early in Term 4.

Conquering Chemistry: changes from the third edition

The fourth edition of Conquering Chemistry (as did the third edition) adopts the contextual approach of the syllabus and follows syllabus order very closely. Deviations occur only when the logical introduction of chemical concepts seems to demand it. All the syllabus material (that can be treated in book form) is covered and there is very little non-syllabus material included (and this material is identified as such by footnotes).

The main changes from the third edition are

· The 2002 revisions to the syllabus (mainly deletions) have been incorporated.
· Sets of Extended response exam-style questions have been included (with model answers for many and advice and commentary given for the others)
· Revision tests at the end of each module more closely reflect the style of questions currently being used in HSC exams. (Third edition revision tests more closely parallelled pre-2001 exams rather than the post-2001 ones)
· More attention has been paid to supplying information for answering extended response exam questions – questions that involve verbs such as analyse, assess, compare, discuss, evaluate and justify.
· The books have been produced in a larger size using much more colour and more attractive layouts with extra diagrams and photos.
· At the end of each module there is a chart setting out the dot points of the syllabus and showing where each is treated in the text.

When writing the third edition I thought the contexts were to provide stimulus material – information to get students interested and motivated – and that the main aim (as in the old syllabus) was still to develop understanding and use of basic chemistry concepts. However the exam papers in 2001 to 2005 indicate that the contexts are to be ends in themselves, that the details of the contexts will be examined and not just the basic chemistry underlying them. There is less emphasis upon problem-solving and more questions that require students to recall learnt information. Consequently this fourth edition of Conquering Chemistry provides more information about the contexts and helps students answer such descriptive questions. However I could not bring myself to delete more than just a few of the problem-solving exercises of the type that has abounded in the book since its original edition. To me you do not really understand a chemical concept until you can apply it to a problem-solving situation, and teaching understanding of chemistry is still my (and Conquering Chemistry's) prime aim.

One difficulty with a contextual approach is that chemical concepts are sometimes developed in a bit-by-bit approach. For example the dynamic nature of equilibrium is introduced in PC Module 3 (dissolution and precipitation of solids), Le Chatelier's principle in HSC Module 1 (solubility of carbon dioxide in water) and extended in HSC Module 3 (synthesis of ammonia) with equilibrium constants introduced in one of the options. Students and teachers need to be aware of this piecemeal development and consolidate the material from time to time.

'Recall' and revise

The syllabus tries to avoid 'rehashing' concepts that have been developed in the Stage 4 and 5 Science courses. Such material is signalled by the word 'recall' which means 'revise what you learnt in previous courses'. Because many students will no longer have their Years 9 and 10 science textbooks, Conquering Chemistry does revise such material, though perhaps somewhat briefly. This gives teachers the opportunity of re-teaching it if deemed necessary, or students the chance to revise it on their own if they need to.

The average number of pages per module is 80. However PC Module 1 is considerably longer at 95 pages: this is because it contains a lot of material that revises Stages 4 and 5.

To return to the CCPC 4th edition opening page click here

To return to the CCHSC 4th edition opening page click here