… it’s all in the representations


2014 saw Education in Chemistry continue to grow and attract an increasing international audience through our new blog and social media engagement with the chemistry education community. It is really exciting to be able to share discussions of such important issues with a wider audience (see Feedback).

This year we plan to reach even further with our new app, launched in January. On this platform, issues of Education in Chemistry will be free to all for the entire year, and we will be publishing some special collections on key topics, such as innovative uses of technology in pedagogy. The app is available on iOS and Android devices for those who choose to read EiC ‘on the move’, as well as a web-reader (works best on Chrome, Firefox or Safari).

Conceptualisation – linking education research

One of the educational research stories in this issue, Mapping conceptual understanding, interestingly links a few of our articles, and highlights just how important it is for us as chemistry educators to understand the things that make chemistry difficult for students to learn. The authors explain that for students to progress through their studies, they need to build a solid conceptual foundation at each stage, so they can then handle higher level material. In order to make this work effectively, it is therefore important to consider how students develop their conceptual understanding of the subject in the curriculum design process.

This is reflected in our feature Is a conceptual understanding of maths vital for chemistry?. Michael Grove and Samantha Pugh consider that perpetual problem of teaching the maths element of chemistry courses. In their study they discovered that in many institutions maths is taught early on in a chemistry course and often not related to chemistry concepts and problems. This can mean that when students come to apply maths to higher level chemistry knowledge later on in their course, they often struggle – not because they can’t do the maths but because they have not had the opportunity to develop the underpinning knowledge by practicing it through all stages of their course. Michael and Samantha invite you to share the innovative e-book resource they developed to support their students.

Representations – look at the structure

In the CPD article, Dorothy Warren looks at more of this ‘Scary stuff’ when she shows you how you can help your students to master moles and titrations – key aspects of quantitative chemistry that teachers often find difficult to teach and students to learn. Titration calculations need students to understand the tricky concept of the mole, confidently apply the maths and physically follow instructions to carry out titrations accurately.

Another reason often cited for students finding chemistry ‘difficult’ is that it has its own language and conventions that are used to represent chemical structures. These can often lead to misconceptions as we try to represent 3D structures in a 2D plane. In Pictures of the molecular world, Matthew Lickiss looks back at how these chemical representations have changed over time and how new conventions have helped us to develop a more accurate conceptualisation and understanding of molecular structures.

As a final New Year treat for you and your students – enjoy making spectacular Golden rain with Declan Fleming as he shows you how to help prevent your students from picking up misconceptions about ionic bonding.

Best wishes for 2015!

Karen J Ogilvie, editor