Expert Insights

A lot of it is from colleagues.  Conferences are fantastic.  You know, your chemical education conferences.  I do go to a lot of those.

This understanding builds students' knowledge about the basic structure of matter which stimulates them to think in sub-microscopic level that provides the fundamental understanding for further chemistry learning.

I like to approach chemistry as a different language, because it used symbols to convey ideas across, but they are not the reality.  When we draw a little stick structure, alcohol does not exist as I’ve just drawn it, it’s a representation.

I want them to get the big picture about what analytical chemistry is about in terms of solving an analytical chemistry problem.  They need to know the big picture rather than just focussing on the measurement step.

The actual curly arrow mechanisms are in a way themselves cartoons, how they map to the reality in the way that a Micky Mouse might map to real life.

Students from high school might understand that vinegar for example is a weak acid compared to hydrochloric acid, but they never knew why. And you could then show them that with equilibrium, this is why. And all of a sudden they’re, 'oh, I’ve always known that I shouldn’t spill HCL on my hand, but I can spill vinegar on my hand and put it on my fish and chips'... Those sorts of moments can really... the students go ‘oh wow.’


The concept of a continuum is, I think, really important in chemistry and… what I see is that students come up with this issue of things being black or white.  They struggle with this concept of the in between stuff.

Try to show students that the fundamental form of matter is energy. Then that this can be represented as particles with mass or as waves (wave functions). Then try to show them that we use the model particle/wave that best helps us understand different phenomena. In class I often do this by asking questions about wave mechanics in particle terms. eg. If a 2s orbital has a node how can the electron pass accross it? Then explain to them the limitations and advantages of each approach.

The influence has been to stand back and let the students do the learning, rather than for the teacher to be barnstorming them with teaching.

I know it's hard for them to 'suspend reality' and just accept a concept. They grasp for real life examples or metaphors which make sense to them. Students don't like the concept of something that can shift/change. They like one answer which is set and that's it, right or wrong - not 'shifts to the left/right'.