Thoughts on the OfS’ “Blended Learning Review” Panel Report

The OfS have published their Blended Learning Review; comprising both the independent panel report, as well as the OfS response on things they think have regulatory implications. The panel report is very good, and is the first that I have seen that really tries to look at the landscape post COVID (while acknowledging that responses are still very much COVD influenced). So many reports and research on the pandemic to date have focussed on what students “liked” and “didn’t like” in COVID (with what seems to be a common finding that 66% of students “like” something that “33% “don’t like”)….

Revitalising the RSC Chemistry Education Research Group

The Chemistry Education Research Group (CERG) has had a difficult few years in the wake of COVID and the lovely people at RSC Networks have been working away in the background over the last year looking at how to help the group recover. CERG has had a significant impact on the landscape of chemistry education research and practice. Over the last few years its flagship activities included those who were new to chemistry education research: the Teacher-Researcher scheme which supported those who were conducting classroom based research with money and support and the CERG mentoring scheme. Before webinars were a…

Design considerations for video as a learning resource

There is obviously a long history of incorporation of video as a learning tool in higher education, and of course over the last two years during the P-word, the use of video as a teaching resource has exploded. I had started a preamble on whether this was a good thing or not, but that became so long that’s going to be a separate post. (Hint: it probably isn’t.) Here the focus is on the use of video in a way that benefits learning. The challenge of video of course, is that while it’s a very good teaching tool – we…

What do we mean by “student engagement”?

It’s not possible to walk through a (virtual or physical) corridor in university these days and not hear someone mention “student engagement”. We worry that students are “not engaged” or we want to “increase engagement”. I sometimes think of students sitting in the lecture, and imagine them sitting up or opening their eyes even wider, smiling as hard as they can, eventually to a point when we can relax and sigh; they are engaged. Because the phrase is nebulous, isn’t it? And while I am about to share some of my own understanding of it, it is a challenge because…

Five Ground-Rules for Laboratory Reform

In preparation for my Nyholm lecture tour beginning next year I have been working on the idea of a package that chemistry departments interested in reform of their laboratory curriculum could take and use in their own setting. The intention is to take our paper on laboratory curriculum reform which presented an overarching framework for a laboratory curriculum1 and use that as a basis for tangible actions. In some useful conversations over the summer I came to the conclusion that this paper could act as a better catalyst if supplemented in (at least!) two ways: firstly, in the attempt to…

A Festschrift in honour of Professor Marcy Hamby Towns

The Journal of Chemical Education has published a Festschrift in honour of one of the great champions of chemistry education and of chemistry educators, Professor Marcy Towns. Just as I was about to board a plane to go to the Biennial Conference in Chemistry Education last month – for which Marcy was General Chair – an alert about the Festschrift being published came in. 30,000 feet higher (and $36 lighter for airplane wifi), I got stuck into reading it. It doesn’t disappoint. In his warm introduction, Jeff Raker notes some of Marcy’s achievements including the supervision of 25 graduate students…

A new PhD graduand in chemistry education

Congratulations to Xinchi Zhang for passing her PhD viva this week. Xinchi’s work explored the student voice in laboratory learning; looking at their experiences in relation to learning as well as their concepts of lab goals. Her work furthered current literature by placing these findings within a theoretical framework, and she brought in Maslow’s hierarchy in an innovative way to do this. Xinchi is a thoughtful and innovative scholar. I still remember meeting her before she undertook her research when she made a strong case for incorporating student needs into the conversation regarding lab design, and her scholarship has heavily…

Describing different types of virtual labs

Recently I spoke in Dublin at the 2nd DCU Virtual Labs Seminar Series. DCU and others are working in a project led by Chemistry at Maynooth University, funded by the Irish Government’s Human Capital Initiative. The focus of the presentation was on design of virtual settings – in particular bringing together (1) what we know about learning in complex settings such as labs, (2) what we know about learning in general, and (3) what we know about good e-learning design, and in the talk I ran through a prototype case study of designing a virtual HPLC experiment with these three…

Going for PFHEA

I woke up in the middle of the night this week and decided I was going to finally do my PFHEA. I remembered a lovely letter I received from a head of department at Cambridge acknowledging guidance I had shared that had been helpful, and in the clarity that Middle Of The Night thoughts bring, I quickly framed an application around this letter of note. I drifted off composing the tweet that I would be pleased to announce. Dawn broke and I downloaded the forms and guidance (again). This time I actually opened them all: the application form, guidance notes, additional guidance…

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…