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Michael Seery
Michael Seery homepage
Web Article
School Directors, Teachers, Policy Makers
1 - 2 pages
This web article is an opinion piece by a chemistry lecturer who also has a strong interest in science pedagogy and also on the use of ICT supports for teaching. His homepage links to a number of articles, some of which have been published elsewhere in journals like Education in Chemistry, so the chosen piece may just be a stepping stone for some readers who will find many other items of use on Michael Seery's webpages.
The article was written in May 2011, a time when Irish educators were being consulted about curriculum review in leaving certificate (upper secondary) science subjects. The author argues for a changes approach to syllabus structures to try to mediate a more motivational approach to chemistry teaching to encapsulate the varying needs of what are defined as three categories of chemistry student, with the overarching reality that 'the Real World is where most of students sitting the Leaving Cert will end up'
The three types of student studying Leaving Cert chemistry are categorised: those with an interest in science, and who see the value of learniong the background to scientific developments in shaping modern chemistry. Then, those who study chemistry for another discipline – they want to study medicine or pharmacy and know having chemistry is essential for entry to third level in these disciplines. Finally there are those who might try chemistry just as a subject to do, but have no intention of ever pursuing the subject furtherfact is that an enthusiastic and inspirational teacher could change their mindset.
The crux of Seery's argument is that the syllabus/curriculum should develop transferable skills through context-based units, and that in doing so it will also motivate students to see the value of Chemistry in its own right.
This thoughtful, and provocative (in a positive sense) article distills the problems with current syllabi very clearly. Yes, there are elements of historical background, theory and applications that are valuable, but a thoughtful attempt at teaching the material using a context-based approach might improve the perception of Chemistry as a valuable subject for lifelong learning.
There is no need to paraphrase Michael Seery's excellent argument for context-based learning, 'This context-based approach I think would suit the Leaving Cert very well; identify several contexts that the course will be delivered through. ... In this way, when students complete a course, they are much more likely to remember it, and become more informed citizens because of it. Leaving Cert chemistry textbooks and resources should be showcases for the application of the living vibrant every day subject'.
It makes perfect sense that the motivated students will still soak up the details of the chemistry but that the others will leave with more appreciation of chemistry in our modern world, and pass that appreciation on to their families and peers.
Limerick Institute of Technology

Comments about this Publication

Your comments are welcome

Date: 2014.05.08

Posted by Mariusz Jarocki (Poland)

Message: The document started with seemingly strange observation, that all chemistry can be reduced to reacting acids and bases. Next, the author discusses a taxonomy and categorisation in Chemistry, in the context of use many part of the science in the real world. Then, he points out that there are three types of student studying Leaving Cert chemistry: interested in the subject, interested in another but related subject and not interested and not having any special intention. The Leaving Cert syllabus has the difficult job of addressing these different types of students.

The author presents own experiences related to teaching photochemistry. His context-based approach suits the Leaving Cert very well identifying several contexts that the course will be delivered through. The considerations end with some interesting conclusions. In the author\'s opinion, students will remember little after the exam. They are not enough motivated to extend their knowledge but they treat the exam as a simple task to do, without relation to the real world and the rest of courses.

The work should be treated as free, informal consideration about teaching chemistry and students\' perception and motivation. In spite of this, the content is very interesting and relevant to the aim of Chemistry is all around Network project.

Date: 2013.02.02

Posted by Viera Lisá (Slovakia)

Message: This article is interesting by its different approach to teaching chemistry. It emphasises concentration at teaching chemistry with emphasis on the real life and solving real problems more than on theory at school. The author assumes that this is better motivation for students to learn chemistry at school and improve their skills and they will learn more than by a traditional method. In my opinion this approach is debatable because I do not think that teaching should be concentrated only at simple level of chemistry from life but it should be alignment of real models with more difficult technical terms and with symbolic chemical language. Even though students do not realise how electrons or protons move eg. In specie and it is explained to them at the basis of theory it is important for them to have a chance to admire success of human brain and they should be able to explain how the nature is working at microscopic base. The author strongly believes in visual teaching of chemistry based on experience as a connection of theory and practice according to series of examples, real life situations and problems. He considers that context is a key, in his understanding connection of teaching chemistry with reasonable understanding of its function in life. This thesis is very interesting also for me and I will try to use it more in my teaching.

Date: 2012.10.03

Posted by Davide Parmigiani (Italy)

Message: This paper is short but relevant because it underlines a fundamental issue for theaching chemistry (and science in general) in the upper secondary school. It’s not a scientific paper but an opinion reported by a teacher. For this reason, we can not consider this paper as a result of a survey or a study, but it is interesting because it highlights the difficulties that teachers face during their daily work with the students.
The author tells his experience when he presented the “top ten problems facing the world at the moment: energy, water, food, environment, poverty, terrorism & war, disease, education, democracy and population”. What’s the main chemistry’s contribution to deal with this important topics? The author doubts that his students could face this issues on work after a course based on a traditional approach. They need to experience the chemistry connecting the contents to the real world challenges.
For instance, the author contests the programme when it provides to study the scientific method. In his opinion, it would be better to invoke the scientific method through a range of examples and problems and real-world examples.
The central sentence is the last one: Context is the key.
In this way, this provocative document reveals that the author gets angry with the indication of National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), because the final exam requires critical thinking at the last year (the ninth one) while the context for a meaningful science and chemistry teaching is not considered for the previous eight school years.
The author indicates also the three kind of students:
- The first is those with an interest in science;
- The second group are those who study chemistry for another discipline (Medicine or pharmacy);
- Finally there are those who might try chemistry just as a subject to do.
The final question is: how to teach to different groups? The author doesn’t respond.

Date: 2012.09.30

Posted by Anastasia Mylona (Greece)

Message: This is an article with interesting thoughts and suggestions on the subject of chemistry content in primary and secondary educational levels. A very significant approach about the way chemistry should be taught in order to motivate students, stimulate their talents and develop skills really useful in real life. The way basic inorganic and organic chemistry is taught, seems to lead students to sterilized knowledge that usually ends just after the exams.
It s true that the proposed teaching model of chemistry through topics from the real world, trains students at the scientific method of working, and stimulates the interest and encourages students that would never decide to follow studies on a field where chemistry is a prerequisite.
Thus, teaching Chemistry through context seems to be the way to motivate students and the truth is that why not after all, teachers and educational departments should step by step start reconsidering the analytical curriculum in Chemistry.

Date: 2012.09.29

Posted by John Pountos (Greece)

Message: This is a short publication which however makes a very important point which is relevant with students’ motivation to learn chemistry. More specifically, the publication points out the significance of context-based learning for enhancing student interest towards chemistry and for increasing scientific literacy. The author argues characteristically that “instead of worrying about content at the micro-level” students “should all know and be informed about chemistry in the Real World”.
In fact, understanding the usefulness and presence of chemistry in real-life applications is often proposed as one of the remedies for enhancing student interest towards the course. Even though not stated explicitly, the publication implies that teaching only (or mostly) the “pure” chemistry knowledge by using a “mystical” symbolic language can easily be very discouraging for motivation and for engagement in further learning. In my opinion, students do think that chemistry is a dull subject that has no relation with their lives and they do not see the point of making an effort in understanding its symbols and concepts. Teaching chemistry in context could in fact attract their interest and keep them motivated. The paper does not report specific successful experiences in achieving motivation via context-base learning, and if fact this is not the aim of this work.
I could not agree more with the fact that chemistry teachers and most importantly chemistry curricula should actively include context-base learning. However, I also think that chemical reactions, “difficult” concepts and symbolic language should not be excluded. Even though students will of course forget how electrons or protons move from species to species, it is important that they are given the chance to at least admire the great achievement of the human mind to be able to explain how nature works at the microscopic level. In addition, one of the aims of chemistry, and all physical science courses, is to help students develop their logical reasoning and scientific way of thinking. These are qualities that they will be useful to them whatever track their life takes.

National Reports on successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry The national reports on chemistry successful experiences to promote lifelong learning for chemistry are now available on the related section of the project portal. The reports presents examples of successful experiences in the partner countries and the results of testing of ICT resources with science teachers.