Research papers, articles and letters from issue 1

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Issue 1, 1997

Developing critical and communication skills in undergraduates through chemistry

Paper | Terence P. Kee and James Ryder

A group-based Critical Skills Workshop (CSW) designed to encourage students to (a) think critically about scientific questions and (b) write and present chemistry to an audience according to challenging rules has been run at Leeds University School of Chemistry for two years. Described here is the workshop framework along with practical details of resource, facilities and a breakdown of time and assessment commitments for the CSW at Leeds.

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Orienteering in the library

Paper | Stephen W. Breuer

A short exercise in literature searching is described which is suitable for students in the second year of a BSc chemistry course. The exercise was devised in order to help students to become familiar with the primary literature, before they start on a final year project involving a literature survey. Each student is given the structure of an organic compound and is required to find specified information about it in the primary literature.

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‘…And some fell on good ground’

Review | A. H. Johnstone

Educational and psychological research in the earlier part of this century regarded the input–output view of education as the only legitimate one since the input and output could be measured objectively and inferences and predictions could be made. But the very fact that changing input can change output behaviour must raise the question why and set us off on an exploration of what goes on in the ‘black box’ of the mind of the learner.

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Chemistry education for a changing world

Proceedings | Patrick Coldstream

Graduates well qualified for the future must show independence of mind and spirit, and must be creative innovators. This implies change in the way they learn; a change which requires partnership between educators and employers, and which leads to something different from either academic or vocational education as we have known them. University educators need to recognise that industry values the well-taught graduate ahead of any research output from universities.

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Virtual investigations: ways to accelerate experience

Proceedings | John Garratt

We need ways of teaching which will help to change students’ approach to learning from one in which they perceive chemistry as being about ‘finding the right answers’ to one in which they see it as a subject in which, although ‘nothing is known absolutely’, some important insights can be gained through investigations. Two specific approaches aimed at achieving this goal are described.

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Creating critical chemists

Proceedings | Tina L. Overton

Two kinds of exercise have been developed with the intention of stimulating groups of students to discuss chemical topics and to develop their thinking skills. The exercises have been used with undergraduate chemistry students at Hull, and appear to have met their objectives. The exercises which are described and illustrated here are four types of ’critical thinking exercise’ (constructing argument, understanding argument, critical reading, and making judgements), and traditional logic problems which have been rewritten into a chemical context.

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Coaxing chemists to communicate

Proceedings | Patrick D. Bailey

A module Communicating Chemistry has been designed and incorporated into the curriculum for the penultimate year of the BSc (hons) Chemistry Course at Heriot-Watt University. The module consists of 10 exercises each of which is built around a chemical scenario and engages students in plausible chemical problems and tasks. In combination the exercises provide opportunities for students to develop skills of information retrieval, team work, problem solving, critical thinking and communication (oral, visual and written). The exercises could be incorporated into any BSc Chemistry Course.

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About University Chemistry Education

Published between 1997 and 2004 by the Royal Society of Chemistry, University Chemistry Education explored methods, ideas and issues facing teachers of chemistry in higher education, bringing together research, opinion, reviews and letters.