Metrics Metrics Everywhere and not a drop to drink ?>

Metrics Metrics Everywhere and not a drop to drink

Yeah, this isn’t going to be a rant about the types of metrics that ‘engaged’ me somewhat at a meeting yesterday. Rather, it’s about the metrics we use in setting assessment that seem to cause fairly significant damage to student learning: word counts and hours of effort. Firstly let’s establish one thing: there are occasions where strict adherence to a word count is an authentic twist in an assessment that mirrors many real scenarios. I have no contest with those,…

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Undergraduate Projects (again!) This Time: MChem ?>

Undergraduate Projects (again!) This Time: MChem

I wrote back in May about final year projects, meaning BSc final year. It’s a nice aggregation of previous musings on the subject and therefor relevant to the brainfull of thoughts leaping from my fingers. For 2016/17 we have a new type of project: final year MChem projects. I’m yet to see assessment criteria for these projects but one thing I must do is consider my expectations as a supervisor of MChem projects and grapple with the difference between…

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When is a teaching innovation not a teaching innovation? ?>

When is a teaching innovation not a teaching innovation?

Is it when it is not evaluated? Is it when it is not effective? Is it when it causes harm to a small group of students? Is it when the staff members asked to try it hate it? What is the success criteria for a teaching innovation? At the weekend I was attempting to answer a question about why there are so many changes in education. Why haven’t we figured out how to teach in the right way yet? It’s…

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#ViCEPHEC16 post-conference musings ?>

#ViCEPHEC16 post-conference musings

The highlights of Variety in Chemistry Education/Physics Higher Education Conference are many and varied this year. The conference felt like it was having a wee bit of existential angst, initiated by this EiC blog post ( on whether the community at the ViCE bit was community or clique, propagated by discussions about the division between practice and pedagogy, and ultimately terminated by everyone really finding presentations of all types very interesting. That being said, I’m glad it is a 2-day…

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#ViCEPHEC16 Pre-conference musings and updates ?>

#ViCEPHEC16 Pre-conference musings and updates

It’s that time of year again – Variety in Chemistry Education.  It’s so warm here in Southampton, I’m struggling to spell chemistry properly. In advance of the conference, I recommend Charles Harrison’s piece on the difference between community and clique within the ChemEd community.   By way of update to my post last year recaping the previous few years, particularly the social media outputs: #ViCEPHEC15 Last year’s Storify can be found:’s also one on Paul Taylor’s Ecopedagogy session: Michael Seery’s…

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Gotta Chem Them All ?>

Gotta Chem Them All

I recently bought an entry-level smart phone for the main purpose of being able to log into WeChat via a QR code. WeChat is a message app that my Chinese students use but an account requires phone details and the web version uses QR codes to login. On one hand, having a phone for login is a bit easier than trying to remember yet another password (or line of poetry/song lyric as my passwords are these days). The phone cost £20…

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Nothing is worthwhile except that to which we can ascribe a number ?>

Nothing is worthwhile except that to which we can ascribe a number

[warning: Monday ramble ahead] I’ve now got to the point of the semester where I am tired and cranky and grumpy (why yes, some of you might enquire as to how you’d know the difference between now and the rest of the semester). I’m tired of assigning numbers to the work of students, considering numbers ranking our programmes in league tables, rating satisfaction with stuff, and all the other metrics that dictate life in a university. And let’s face it,…

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Chemistry Festivities ?>

Chemistry Festivities

After surviving the 2nd year practical exam at the beginning of last week, the end of the week brought our Salters’ festivals of chemistry. We do two, one is the standard festival with the Salters Challenge then one of our own devising, the second is for SEND (special educational needs and disabilities) students and we do two challenges. The challenge for the SEND festival is to cater to the diverse range of needs the students have while still offering some…

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Safety Compromises ?>

Safety Compromises

Running a practical exam with several staff invigilating highlights, very clearly, the differences in approach to certain lab techniques. For a reaction heated to reflux, do we clamp the flask, the flask and the condenser, or the flask but with a second clamp loose around the condenser for a little stability? Are disposable nitrile gloves good enough for this type of use or that type of use? Can syringes be used, without needles, to measure reasonably accurate quantities? Does the…

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(Im)practical Exams ?>

(Im)practical Exams

On Monday and Tuesday next week our 2nd years will have their practical exam. This consists of 2 x 3 hour sessions, one in a computer lab carrying out data analysis and the other is in the lab carrying out a literature style prep. All of the techniques and methods should be familiar to the students but the specific scenarios are not. This is worth 20% of a 15-credit module and we’ve run mock exams for each to give our…

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