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….

Using the Columbo approach on Discussion Boards

As pat of our ongoing development of an electronic laboratory manual at Edinburgh, I decided this year to incorporate discussion boards to support students doing physical chemistry labs. It’s always a shock, and a bit upsetting, to hear students say that they spent very long periods of time on lab reports. The idea behind the discussion board was to support them as they were doing these reports, so that they could use the time they were working on them in a more focussed way. The core aim is to avoid the horror stories of students spending 18 hours on a…

#ViCEPHEC16 – curly arrows and labs

The annual Variety in Chemistry Education/Physics Higher Education conference was on this week in Southampton. Some notes and thoughts are below. Curly arrows Physicists learned a lot about curly arrows at this conference. Nick Greeves‘ opening keynote spoke about the development of ChemTube3D – a stunning achievement – over 1000 HTML pages, mostly developed by UG students. News for those who know the site are that 3D curly arrow mechanisms are now part of the reaction mechanism visualisations, really beautiful visualisation of changing orbitals as a reaction proceeds for 30+ reactions, lovely visualisations of MOFs, direct links to/from various textbooks, and an…

Getting ready to badge and looking for interested partners

Over the summer we have been working on a lab skills badging project. Lots of detail is on the project home site, but briefly this is what it’s about: Experimental skills are a crucial component of student laboratory learning, but we rarely assess them, or even check them, formally. For schools, there is a requirement to show that students are doing practical work. By implementing a system whereby students review particular lab techniques in advance of labs, demonstrate them to a peer while being videod, reviews the technique with a peer using a checklist, and uploads the video for assessment, we…

Planning a new book on laboratory education

Contracts have been signed so I am happy to say that I am writing a book on chemistry laboratory education as part of the RSC’s new Advances in Chemistry Education series due for publication mid 2017. I’ve long had an interest in lab education, since stumbling across David McGarvey’s “Experimenting with Undergraduate Practicals” in University Chemistry Education (now CERP). Soon after, I met Stuart Bennett, now retired, from Open University at a European summer school. Stuart spoke about lab education and its potential affordances in the curriculum. He was an enormous influence on my thinking in chemistry education, and in practical work in…

Alex Johnstone’s 10 Educational Commandments

My thanks to Prof Tina Overton for alerting me to the fact that these exist. I subsequently happened across them in this article detailing an interview with Prof Johnstone (1), and thought they would be useful to share. Ten Educational Commandments  1. What is learned is controlled by what you already know and understand. 2. How you learn is controlled by how you learned in the past (related to learning style but also to your interpretation of the “rules”). 3. If learning is to be meaningful, it has to link on to existing knowledge and skills, enriching both (2). 4….

ChemEd Journal Publications from UK since 2015

I’ve compiled this list for another purpose and thought it might be useful to share here.  The following are publications I can find* from UK corresponding authors on chemistry education research, practice, and laboratory work relevant to HE since beginning of 2015.  There are lots of interesting finds and useful articles. Most are laboratory experiments and activities, Some refer to teaching practice or underlying principles. I don’t imagine this is a fully comprehensive list, so do let me know what’s missing. It’s in approximate chronological order from beginning of 2015. Surrey (Lygo-Baker): Teaching polymer chemistry Reading (Strohfeldt): PBL medicinal chemistry practical…

Practical work: theory or practice?

Literature on laboratory education over the last four decades (and more, I’m sure) has a lot to say on the role of practical work in undergraduate curricula. Indeed Baird Lloyd (1992) surveys opinions on the role of practical work in North American General Chemistry syllabi over the course of the 20th century and opens with this delicious quote, apparently offered by a student in 1928 in a $10 competition: Chemistry laboratory is so intimately connected with the science of chemistry, that, without experimentation, the true spirit of the science cannot possibly be acquired.  I love this quote because it captures so nicely the sense that laboratory…

Developing practical skills in the chemistry laboratory

How do we prepare students for practical skills they conduct in the laboratory? Practical skills involve psychomotor development, as they typically involve handling chemicals, glassware, and instrumentation. But how do we prepare students for this work, and do we give them enough time to develop these skills? Farmer and Frazer analysed 126 school experiments (from the old O-level Nuffield syllabus) with a view to categorising practical skills and came up with some interesting results.[1] Acknowledging that some psychomotor tasks include a cognitive component (they give the example of manipulating the air-hole collar of a Bunsen burner while judging the nature…

Reflections on #micer16

Several years ago at the Variety in Chemistry Education conference, there was a rather sombre after-dinner conversation on whether the meeting would continue on in subsequent years. Attendance numbers were low and the age profile was favouring the upper half of the bell-curve. Last year at Variety I registered before the deadline and got, what I think was the last space, and worried about whether my abstract would be considered. The meeting was packed full of energetic participants interested in teaching from all over UK and Ireland, at various stages of their careers. A swell in numbers is of course…