Variety in Chemistry Education Conference 2013 #vicephec13

Having spent the weekend in voluntary social media blackout following the maelstrom that is Variety in Chemistry Education (and PHEC) conference, I’m slowly processing the ideas this Monday morning. My thoughts, however, are still somewhat fragmented, so I’ll post some random snippets below in the hope that sense and order might descend in the process.

The first thought is a sense that so many folk are doing great stuff within the constraints of their institution and circumstances. That’s not a criticism – ideas in teaching have to work within those constraints. The main thing that occurs to me is that there never has been and never will be a one size fits all solution to any defined pedagogical problem. I listened to people describe wonderful new modules or assessments or activities and often I thought ‘well that’s really great but it wouldn’t work for me because…’. The circumstances and constraints governing my teaching are different and also my teaching style is probably very different so I can’t just copy, nor would I want to. So there are a lot of things on my list to think about adapting and moulding into something that fits for me.

One big example of something that would need adapting is all the work on employability and skills. This blew me away a bit at the HEA STEM conference around Easter-time and I can see that I’ve still not thought my way out of the labyrinth yet. All I know for certain is that in a programme like ours at Keele, were a significant number of students are dual honours, we cannot afford to have a module devoted only* to skills or employability. We have to be very clever with our assessment and module design to hit as many targets as possible.  *Note: I use the term ‘only’ with caution – all of the modules I’ve heard of teach a great deal of valuable skills to the student and without doubt, the students get more out of it than only skills or employability. It is still a luxury we probably can’t afford.

I’m still not convinced by lecture flipping but very much enjoyed hearing Dr Michael Seery discuss it and am looking forward to finding out how his 2nd year of flipping thermodynamics goes. (more: http://michaelseery.com/variety/index.php/plenary-lecture-notes-and-links/). I am contemplating trying it out for a new 2nd year module but will have to see how much time I have on my hands for planning.

I am still overwhelmed by how supportive the people that attend Variety are. Makes you realise that Chemistry Education in HE is in pretty good hands, particularly with people so willing to share their experiences and success and failure. There is more to come as I pull things out of my head and try to order them but for a blow by blow description, you might try Simon Lancaster’s storify (http://storify.com/S_J_Lancaster/variety-in-chemical-education-and-physics-higher-e ). It starts off a little quieter than usual due to Liverpool University’s restrictions on eduroam wireless access.  Fortunately the twitter barricade was soon removed and we could get on with the normal business of filling up the #vicephec13 hashtag.

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