Lighting a chemistry fire

Murat Kahveci and MaryKay Orgill (eds)
2015 | 318 pp | £117
ISBN 9783662450840


Having heard people label the subject I teach ‘chem-misery’, a book that examines learning and teaching chemistry from the perspective of the affective domain is certainly of interest. The affective domain incorporates attitudes, motivation, interests, self-efficacy and values. As the editors point out, these have been shown to correlate positively with learner persistence and performance but are relatively unexplored in chemistry.

The first five chapters focus on theoretical considerations while the remaining ten are case studies. A solid basis is provided in the initial chapter by relating the application of a broadly constructivist perspective on teaching and learning to the achievement of affective educational objectives. The next chapter examines how self-report questionnaires and observations are used to gather data. The guidelines on selecting or developing a self-report instrument should prove very useful to anyone wishing to undertake related research. Gender perspective is then considered and the discussion of a perception of chemistry as a less ‘masculine’ subject than physics was one that interested me.

The case studies are comprehensive and provide examples from special needs, secondary school, gifted student and higher education (including chemistry teacher education), and the pedagogical approaches investigated include inquiry-based, context-based and problem-based learning. A chapter on context-oriented learning tasks offers insights into designing such activities, among them the finding that students preferred a context unrelated to everyday life. The potential application of neuroscience techniques such as EEG (electroencephalogram) to examine affective dimensions is also explored and one result discussed is that scientific creativity was found to be promoted by a negative affective environment. The suggestion made is to generate this by applying a time limit.

One omission is that the potential to gather data by interviews is not explored and two minor gripes are that chapters are not numbered and cross-references are generally not made between chapters when similar topics are discussed. However, this book certainly achieves the stated aims of presenting current knowledge on the affective domain in the context of chemistry education and providing the context for future research. It should prove valuable to all seeking to ‘light a fire’ within chemistry learners.