2: What do out want to find out? Defining your research question*

This section covers a major aspect of thinking about your research project – your research question. It is a long section and has a lot of detail. You will likely use this section several times; at first to get a general overview of the research approach, and again throughout your project as you define your question, think about your methods, and reflect on your research approach. In the first reading your aim is to get a general sense of what a research question is and why we use them in education research. At the heart of the research process is…

1. What is chemistry education research?

An overview of education research Education research is an academic discipline which focusses on exploring all aspects of education. This includes finding out about what students know, how students learn, and investigating teaching approaches. Its focus can range from one student’s learning to a national education system, to a teaching approach across many different contexts. The assumed rationale for completing education research is to find out more, and hence improve teaching and learning at all levels of education. Based in theory Education research has some particular characteristics. As an academic discipline, it builds on educational theory. This means that an…

Introducing “A guide to completing your undergraduate chemistry education research project”

I have been lucky to supervise many undergraduate students as they complete their final year education research projects. It’s an exciting time as students bring their enthusiasm, interest, and knowledge to a fresh project each year. It is also a challenging task; students who are expert in their own discipline such as chemistry have to learn new terminology and new ways of approaching research, that may seem unfamiliar. The time constraints of a final year undergraduate study adds to the challenge: completing a research project in a new area that is the basis of an academic thesis in 6 –…

Managing undergraduate education research groups

At MICER21, I spoke on the process of managing an undergrad education research programme at Edinburgh with a former student, Lee Ferguson. Each year I had 10 undergrad students taking projects and so a system of management evolved. After giving some context and details about recruitment approaches and timelines, Lee then shared his experiences and reflections as a student on the programme. I then looked at four project categories that have emerged over the years (themes and project choice usually student driven): Projects on teaching and learning of chemistry Projects under a more general SoTL banner Projects associated with more…

Lab Education: Past, Present and Future Discussion

Yesterday I was a panellist on an ACS Chem Ed Research Committee discussion on laboratory education. It was a very interesting and wide ranging discussion on teaching laboratories moderated by Nikita Burrows, with panellists Brittland DeKorver, Joi Walker and me. There was a large and active audience, testamant to the enduring popularity of talking about laboratory education. Some thoughts below, but it is worth flagging the quality of the panel and what they bring to the discussion. I suggest anyone interested read: Brittland: DeKorver, B. K., & Towns, M. H. (2016).Upper‐level undergraduate chemistry students’ goals for their laboratory coursework. Journal…

Setting up OBS for screen sharing presentations and webinars

The video below looks at how to overlay presentations with a mask so that it wraps up various media into a single cohesive presentation that you can screen share. The positioning of the speaker’s webcam in virtual presentations has never been quite satisfactory. In Zoom, you disappear altogether, while in Teams you are relegated to a little blob at the bottom of the screen. There is often value in having a larger speaker view; to impart the human gestures accompanying presentation or for particular teaching moments where you might want to share some detail on camera. David Read told me 10…

How has your chemistry assessment changed as a result of COVID?

A working group of the RSC Education Division Council is completing an analysis of the assessment landscape and how it changed as a result of COVID. The task is to: survey the changes that occurred in assessment of chemistry in post-secondary education, to identify commentary on implementation from these in practice, and to share this practice back with the community, with the (explicit) intention of encouraging a broader assessment profile in chemistry. All educators involved in post-secondary teaching are invited to complete the survey, which can be accessed at the link below. The deadline for completion is 23rd April 2021….

Remembering Friday 13th March 2020

On Friday 13th March 2020 I wrote to all students and staff in the School of Chemistry to announce that all teaching was moving online for the remaining three weeks of semester. The email was a result of a busy few weeks of activity planning contingencies as we worked to comprehend what the impact of COVID-19 would be — if any. In the weeks running up to the event, contingency work was very much in the context of “worse-case scenario”; indeed it started off from the perspective that COVID-19 had prompted general agreement that we should have a contingency plan…

Passing on the Editor’s pen at CERP

From the start of this month I began my slow fading away as Editor of Chemistry Education Research and Practice and I am delighted to say that involved handing over the reins to Professor Gwen Lawrie, who has taken up the position as Editor in Chief of the journal. It was a very difficult decision to stand down from the journal that I have been working closely with for five years, but the right one for me at this time. On taking up a position like this, you make mad plans and generate lots of “great ideas”, but in reality…

State of the nation

An email the other day reminded me with some cheer that it is 66 days until students return. Remove days for annual leave, weekends, and just wailing hopelessly into the void, that does not leave many days left To Do Things. And there are lots of Things To Do. We’ve just come through a month of consultation with staff and students where I’ve shared plans and sought feedback and ideas. Consultation with staff was quite empowering. I hear a lot about staff in research intensive universities and their supposed negative attitudes towards anything teaching related, but my email box is…