Research papers, articles and letters from issues 1 and 2

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Issue 1, April 1998

World wide web publishing as a basis for student projects

Paper | Paul C. Yates

Students were set the task of publishing a set of pages on the World Wide Web to explain a chemical concept in detail. This was run as a ten week final year undergraduate project. The pages were written in simple Hypertext Markup Language, and students were encouraged to search for their own sources of material and to discover the best forms of presentation. The projects are consequently truly open ended, and require a much more structured approach than would a traditional dissertation. Web publishing is a valuable skill which will be of increasing interest to potential employers.

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Introduction to the use of the chemical literature: an innovative library workbook

Paper | Helen Schofield and Angus O. McDougall

A library workbook for chemistry students is described. Workbooks have been integrated into degree programmes at several levels and are tailored to assist with location of information of direct relevance to the practical, essay and project work being undertaken during the programme. The workbooks are reviewed annually, with account being taken of new developments in databases, the printed material available and students’ feedback forms.

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Post-laboratory support using dedicated courseware

Paper | Barry S. Nicholls

Post-laboratory courseware supporting inorganic chemistry experiments has been integrated into the curriculum at Liverpool John Moores University. It has three main objectives: (a) to instruct on the chemistry occurring in experiments, (b) to report authentic results directly from raw data and (c) to instruct on and test data-manipulation. This paper describes the design, integration, uptake and evaluation of laboratory courseware support during the 1996/97 academic year.

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Using case studies to develop key skills in chemists: a preliminary account

Communication | Simon T. Belt and Lawrie E. Phipps

A series of case studies is being written with the aim of developing new and existing skills in chemists for employment. The development of the first of these case studies is described together with an overview of content and structure. Group work, tutor input (including assessment) and student skills profiling are discussed in more detail. These case studies are complementary to other skills based exercises and could be easily incorporated into other BSc Chemistry based courses.

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Teaching, learning, and computing

Review | Doug Clow

This review argues that in order to use computers to improve students’ learning, it is necessary to apply the work that people have already done on understanding how students learn. In the previous issue of this journal, Johnstone’s review discussed the process which goes on in students’ minds when they learn. Here, I wish to review the work on learning with a view to its application to the use of computers in teaching chemistry.

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Inducing people to think

Perspective | John Garratt

Listening to people describing their methods for and ideas about teaching and learning chemistry, and discussing these ideas into the small hours is almost always stimulating. I have been fortunate in the number of opportunities I have had to do this over the last few months, presenting here my reflections on these discussions.

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  • ‘Mystery molecules’ | Harold White
  • ‘Reflecting on learning’ | Jane Tomlinson
  • ‘Laboratory work’ | Alex Johnstone

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Issue 2, September 1998

Improving students’ data analysis skills in the laboratory

Paper | Paul C. Yates

Basic courses in mathematics for chemists often do not allow students to practice analysing data within a true laboratory environment. This is a vital skill which students often find quite intimidating. This problem has been addressed by using the first session of the practical component of a physical chemistry module to perform a data analysis exercise with the assistance of staff and postgraduate demonstrators. Student reaction suggests that such an exercise is needed, and that more encouragement needs to be given in the use of technology to support laboratory data analysis.

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Independent learning in an introductory module in biological chemistry: use of Question MarkTM software to provide an assessment tool and tutorial support

Paper | Keith Adams, Bill Ginn and David Ruddick

In designing a new first year module in biological chemistry we aimed to eliminate lectures which we regard as a fairly ineffective way of imparting factual information and replace them with high quality handouts and a recommended text. Students were issued with a programme of structured study and assessment at the start of the module. Two hour tutorials were held weekly on questions/discussion topics previously given to students. Students worked their way through the subject material during 12 weeks and were assessed at fortnightly intervals using Question MarkTM  software. A survey of the students indicated that two thirds of the class thought that this style of learning was better or much better than lectures and none thought it was worse.

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Addressing key skills in the chemistry curriculum: structured learning packages

Paper | Simon B. Duckett, Nigel D. Lowe and Paul G. Taylor

An approach to addressing key (transferable) skills has been developed which builds on the chemistry background of students by means of realistic case studies sourced from the chemical industry. The development and format of the resulting structured learning packages are outlined. Early experiences in using these packages at two universities are described. Initial trials suggest that students can improve their understanding of chemical topics whilst developing skills in the principal areas of teamworking, communication, problem solving and information retrieval.

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Computer simulations: creating opportunities for science writing

Communication | Doug Clow and John Garratt

A computer simulation allowed second-year students to carry out a simulated investigation of factors affecting the rate of an enzyme-catalysed reaction and to write a report on this in the style of sections of a scientific paper. Examination of the student reports reveals a number of weaknesses in the students’ understanding of what makes for good professional writing. We conclude that students need careful guidance if they are to get the maximum benefit from this opportunity.

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The teaching of basic chemistry to university foundation students

Perspective | E. W. Evans and Rh. Lewis

In order to maintain the present flow of students into higher education, the needs of foundation students must be urgently addressed. We suggest that there are three main areas which reduce achievement by foundation students. The first is calculations, the second is that of language and the third is student motivation. Here we give examples of each of these drawn from our own studies.

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Skills development and practical work in chemistry

Perspective | Stuart W. Bennett and Katherine O’Neale

Nowadays only a minority of chemistry graduates make direct use of their chemical knowledge and skills in their work. Under these circumstances we suggest that it is inappropriate to design a programme that is specifically and solely directed to the training of the professional chemist.

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  • ‘Chemical games to improve communication skills’ | Ray Wallace and Bob Murray
  • ‘Problems with small numbers’ | R. Greaves
  • ‘Titration formulae’ | P. Glaister

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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.