Physical Chemistry

Physical chemistry

Equilibrium Animations

Use animations to show what happens as reactions come to equilibrium.

Link to PhET Simmulation: Reversible Reactions

Diagram of Many Molecules Reaching Equilibrium

Use large scale diagrams with many molecules to show the progression from initial to reacting to equilibrium, and extend that with changes to the system that influence the equilibrium. In these ensure that there are many molecules present rather than one.

Swimming Pool Chemistry

Use several real life examples with different ways of causing the equilibrium to shift. Swimming pool chemistry:

HOCl can enter the cells of undesirable organisms to kill them, but OCl- can’t, hence if the equilibrium is too far to the right it won’t act effectively. If you add acid (say HCl) the position of the equilibrium shifts to the left, producing more OCl-. That’s partly why the pH of the pool is important.



Equilibrium Simulation

Use demonstration or simulation of how both forward and reverse reactions occur up to and at equilibrium in several mixtures. The PhET simmulation below shows both reactions are happening, even though concentration of reactants and products isn't changing.

Link to PhET Simmulation: Reversible Reactions

Emphasize Physical State

Put a bit more emphasis on the physical state of the substance that they are learning about. Because students often aren’t really able to imagine what kind of substance they are going to learn about. They will then know that they don’t have to calculate the volume if it’s a solid, for example, they have to calculate it by mass.

Solubility Demonstration

Use demonstrations when teaching about solubility. Students need to be thinking about what's going on. You have two clear solutions and when you mix them together a white precipitate forms instantly. Then decant the liquid and get them to think about what’s in the supernatant and what is the solid. Go on to use calculations to work out the solubility for an amount of substance. Use the amount that you can see as a precipitate to work out how much is in a saturated solution.

Be Available For Students

If a student comes to you with a fundamental misunderstanding, try to sit with them one-on-one if you can, and try to find out what their problem is and try to help them. Always try to be open, always try to be available. That’s very difficult in first year, due to the large number of students, but just try to help people. Be honest and open.

Weave in Examples

As usual, try to weave in some real-world examples.

Multiple Resources

If you look at the resources - students’ have textbooks, they have electronic media, they have Sapling. They can do the problems in their own time in a guided way with something like Sapling. All we as lecturers have to do is give them the framework to solve the problems.

Read the full quote here

Link to Sapling Learning


Relate to Drug Behaviour

Use drugs as an example of the relationship between how much of a species is protonated and how much is non-protonated. This is an equilibrium process. For a carboxylic acid drug, if it’s protonated it’s not ionic, if it’s not protonated it’s anionic. And if it’s going from gut into blood for example, whether or not it goes through the membrane will depend upon the pH of the system.


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