University teaching should be based on the latest research data (University of Helsinki, 2021). This ensures scientific timeliness. In chemistry education, this is challenging as the field is advancing rapidly on two fronts – chemistry and its teaching. In this study, we focused to explore the education part.
In the work of a university teacher, research information is monitored not only through scientific publications but also through conferences. This article has been published in the conference proceedings of the largest science education conference – ESERA. Conference papers do not represent the highest scientific level, but they are peer-reviewed and therefore important in the science education field. Their challenge is a low discoverability because they are not extensively indexed in databases.
At the University of Helsinki, everyone teaches and does research. This article represents research-based course development. In this study, we mapped the perceived professional relevance of the activities used in the chemistry education courses. The aim is to better understand the needs of students so that courses can be developed to be more meaningful and thus more effective.
In the Chemistry Teacher Education Unit, we have used the above-mentioned Stuckey et al. (2013) relevance model very much. The model allows examining perceptions of relevance on a personal, professional, and societal level. The model has received some criticism. For example, three-dimensional classification has been perceived as narrow and naive. However, I think the model is serving its purpose. It is a tool that allows the classification of experiences. We could use other models as well, but the model presented by Stuckey et al. clear. It is also widely adopted based on citations.
The data consisted of perceptions of future chemistry teachers (N=72), which were collected through an online survey during 2017–2019. The data collection took several years, as there are about 10–20 active future chemistry teacher students each year. The aim was to study the phenomenon through quantitative analysis and not only rely on the qualitative data. We have two decades experience on the qualitative data via course feedbacks, but it is difficult to make community-wide development decisions through qualitative approach. The aim of this study was to produce a broad overview, so a descriptive statistical analysis was chosen as the statistical approach.
Based on the analysis, future chemistry teachers find teaching exercises in the classroom and laboratory, discussions with peers and the designing new laboratory activities to be most relevant from the perspective of professional development. Below you find a screenshot of a table from the results section. In addition to the mean, pay attention to the variance shown by the standard deviation and the frequency table.
A screenshot of a results table.
The results were logical. Activities that develop teaching skills represent the profession itself. Discussions enable both the critical development of one’s own thinking and increases social interaction with peers. The development of laboratory activities was perceived as the most important. It is noteworthy that all these relevant activities engage higher-level thinking skills (Krathwohl, 2002).
Finally – In the spirit of my own professional development – I reflect on what I have learned from research into the quality criteria of university education. At the University of Helsinki, teaching is 1) based on researched knowledge, 2) aims at learning and 3) the university is viewed as a scientific learning community including students (University of Helsinki, 2021). This type of research makes it possible to meet all three of these quality criteria.
Research enables making knowledge-based course design decisions. In addition, doing research and writing articles allows teachers to update their own skills.
Through research, courses can be developed so the learning aims are optimally aligned with students’ needs.
When students participate in the research, they see an example how a scientific community works. This can be inspiring for them. In addition, when new ideas are justified via research students will likely experience it high-quality way to develop courses.
Stuckey, M., Hofstein, A., Mamlok-Naaman, R., & Eilks, I. (2013). The meaning of ‘relevance’ in science education and its implications for the science curriculum. Studies in Science Education
(1), 1–34. https://doi.org/10.1080/03057267.2013.802463