Writing A Chemistry Education Research Article: Stepping Stone Or Stumbling Block?

Suzanne Fergus


I was invited to write this opinion piece following a presentation at the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) conference on Methods in Education Chemistry Research related to translating creative teaching ideas and innovations into chemistry education research outputs. With a keen interest in learning and teaching and a solid training in organic chemistry research, my choice to combine them both and engage in chemistry education research (CER), seeking the empirical evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness (or not) of classroom or laboratory activities, would seem obvious. My professional journey has been both a stepping-stone, in terms of the positive impact of CER in deepening my pedagogic theory and stretching my ideas, yet it also has been a stumbling block. The perspective from colleagues strongly implied CER to be easier, not to mention “fluffy and vague” compared with traditional chemistry research. My experiences have been quite the contrary. I found CER if anything to be more difficult and challenging. To execute chemistry research, in for example my discipline of organic synthetic, would typically require me to consult the literature, obtain published procedures to synthesise a target compound or intermediate products and then to identify the chemicals required. I can assume that the chemicals used will react in a similar way to the published procedure. This however, cannot be assumed in education; replication is not guaranteed. An effective classroom activity with my undergraduate students or a successful doctoral research supervision strategy may not work effectively with all students in all contexts. I will outline the common pitfalls to avoid in CER, the first step in planning high quality CER and hopefully offer some reassurances that, although the transition to CER may feel like starting again within a new research discipline, it does not need to be daunting. Although my experience is in CER most of what I write here will be applicable across the disciplines in higher education. 


Opinion piece

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.29311/ndtps.v0i12.673

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New Directions in the Teaching of Natural Sciences

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