Improving chemical education: turning research into effective practice
Despite several decades of research into the teaching and learning of Science/Chemistry, at both secondary and tertiary level, it has had relatively little impact on practice. In many countries interest in studying Science at school and university is falling, and there is concern over falling numbers and falling standards. There is a changing student population at tertiary level – in many cases more diverse in ability and background, less well prepared in mathematics and science, and often less motivated. This presents problems in maintaining both adequate numbers of graduates and academic standards. Many academics have not adapted sufficiently to this change in the student population. Today’s challenge is how to turn the findings of research on teaching and learning into effective practice; in other words, how to make the teaching and learning of chemistry more evidence-based, as distinct from the sole preoccupation with content. This has implications for the curriculum, for teaching methods and for assessment. One major problem is that much education research is never read by practitioners and even less is applied. This article identifies some of the barriers to implementing the findings of education research and also some of the successes. Ignorance of what is known about teaching and learning chemistry and an unwillingness to change are two main factors. At third-level, teaching needs to be research-led not only in relation to its subject (a contemporary mantra) but also research-led in relation to the process of teaching and learning. There needs to be more effective communication of research findings and exemplars of turning research into practice.