Inaugural Lecture: Supporting student learning in complex environments

In February I gave my Inaugural Lecture to celebrate the awarding of the Chair in Chemistry Education. The lecture was recorded, and I am grateful to the folks at Academic Audio Transcription who have undertaken the very tough task of transcribing my very strange accent, so that I can now share the lecture with subtitles. As well as introduction (~4 mins) the lecture is in three parts – learning in the lab, a bit about me, and work around student inclusion. If you are interested in some of the aspects mentioned in this lecture, some follow-up links are below, which themselves…

Looking back on ten years of Chemistry Education Research and Practice

Over the last 10 years from 2010 – 2019, Chemistry Education Research and Practice, a free-to-access journal published by the RSC (of which I am currently Editor) has published 631 articles, which have been cited 5246 times (data from Web of Science). So what has been “hot” this last decade? It seems whatever way you cut it, it was flipped learning and organic chemistry… Below I’ve cut the citation statistics a few ways – these comments are based on citations rather than judgement on the work itself. In terms of number of citations, Keith Taber’s perspective on the chemistry triplet tops the…

A new book on teaching chemistry in higher education

This summer I published a very special book on teaching chemistry in higher education. Each chapter in the book contains some approach on teaching chemistry, written by someone who has implemented that approach more than once in their own setting. Chapters explain how the approaches are grounded in the literature, explain the rationale for the approach, and then go on to give some detail on the implementation and outcomes of the approach. Thus the book intends to be useful to those new or reconsidering approaches to teaching chemistry in higher education, as well as those involved in education development. While…

Five suggestions for future VICEPHEC meetings

It is great news that there is going to be a Committee of Elders looking after future VICEPHEC meetings. Here are five suggestions on the structure of this conference: Structure discussion time – discussion time needs to be structured into the programme. A good rule of thumb is to have at least half of the time allocated to presentations as discussion, so a 10 minute talk should have 5 minutes discussion, a 30 minute keynote should have 15 minutes discussion. Discussions should be structured by Chairs, perhaps with prompting questions (in the case of keynotes) and questions on a theme…

What can we advise chemistry students about studying?

I’ve started a new blog over on University of Edinburgh’s new blog website – these are posts specifically focussed on chemistry education, looking at important and I hope interesting things from staff/student perspectives. The first one is: What can we advise chemistry students about studying? I’ve pasted the opening paragraph below. The importance of actively considering study A quick glance at the specifications for any university lecture course will show that while lectures, labs, and tutorials will make up the formal part of how we interact with students, usually more than half of the time allocated to courses is given over…

A Framework for Learning in the Chemistry Laboratory

What is the key literature on chemistry laboratory education? What kinds of factors should be considered when designing laboratory curricula? An invite for a journal special issue gave me the final push to write something I’ve wanted to write for a long time addressing these questions. When writing it, I have in mind “typical academics”, who may be doing learning and teaching courses or people interested in broadening their reading about chemistry education. This special issue was a good place for it because it is a special issue in a “normal” chemistry journal, with the theme of chemistry education. Therefore…

Lessons from running webinars

We are now coming up to half way for the webinar series I launched this year. Webinars run monthly, thereabouts, and are on the theme of chemistry education research. I’ve never hosted webinars before so it has been interesting, and when the technology decides not to work, heart-stopping. Useful responses to a post (plea) requesting ideas/guidance are listed here. I think I have incorporated most of the suggestions. Some thoughts on format What’s been a real pleasure has been the opportunity to hear speakers I love give a talk. This year, because I was testing the water, I chose speakers who…

Harmony in the Chemistry Lab

One of the difficulties students often raise is that the lab report they are required to produce is different for one section (not looking at anyone…) than it is for others. I think it is a fair comment. In Scotland and Ireland, students complete four year undergraduate Bachelor courses, and the first year in these courses is usually a highly organised, well-oiled machine which is consistent in format across the year (it would be similar in nature to the “Gen Chem” courses internationally). So when a student enters Year 2, I think it must be quite a shock to find…

A model for the (chemistry) practical curriculum

Yesterday’s post discussed our recent work in thinking about how to build experimental design into the teaching laboratory. This post is related, but aims to think about the overall laboratory teaching curriculum. I’ve been thinking about this and have Tina Overton’s mantra ringing in my head: what do we want the students to be at the end of it? So, what do we want students to be at the end of a practical curriculum? I think many of us will have varying answers, but there’s a couple of broad themes, which we can assemble thanks to the likes of Tamir…