Teaching large undergraduate chemistry classes: A challenge or an opportunity
Teaching introductory modules and classes of undergraduate programmes can present a number of subjective and objective challenges. Objective challenges include a high degree of variation in students’ prior learning experiences combined with a high student-teacher ratio. Subjective challenges include the transitional changes which first year students undergo that include cognitive, affective and physiological changes as they make the leap from the often small and secluded secondary-level environment to the all-consuming tertiary-level environment. For introductory chemistry modules, such as General Chemistry, the pertinence of these challenges can have negative repercussions on students’ acquirement of basic chemical concepts in first year which could inherently go on to hinder their successful progression through their third-level education. In an effort to tackle the challenges posed against effective learning in General Chemistry modules, this exploratory research study set out to understand how the potential incorporation of a new approach to teaching and learning would be received by the three main cohorts involved. The attitudes and recommendations of undergraduate students, post-graduate students who have a role as laboratory demonstrators and module leaders towards the potential incorporation of Student-Inquiry activities and laboratories into General Chemistry were investigated. All three cohorts welcomed the incorporation of Student-Inquiry as part of the approach to teaching and learning. While the researchers and module leaders had an initial awareness of the challenges that come with teaching General Chemistry, little was known of the potential significance of the opportunity which lay amongst these challenges.