Australian Journal of Chemistry Australian Journal of Chemistry Society
An international journal for chemical science
RESEARCH ARTICLE

First Year Introductory Chemistry at the University of Western Australia: Reflections and Perceptions

Tristan D. Clemons A , Robert B. Bucat A and Dino Spagnoli A B
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A School of Molecular Sciences, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia.

B Corresponding author. Email: dino.spagnoli@uwa.edu.au

Australian Journal of Chemistry - https://doi.org/10.1071/CH17359
Submitted: 29 June 2017  Accepted: 12 September 2017   Published online: 16 October 2017

Abstract

This study investigated two student cohorts enrolled in an introductory tertiary chemistry unit designed for students with little or no previous education in chemistry. Emeritus Professor Graham Chandler was instrumental in the design and development of this unit almost 30 years ago. Therefore, this study has particular interest in this special issue of the Australian Journal of Chemistry, which celebrates Emeritus Professor Graham Chandler’s contribution to Australian chemistry. This paper is divided into two distinct parts that provide two unique perspectives of the unit. The first perspective, Part A, is a historical account of the origins of this unit and is based on an interview with E/Prof. Chandler and Dr Peter Simpson OAM. Both E/Prof. Chandler and Dr Simpson provide an excellent reflection on the need for an introductory chemistry unit in tertiary education, which was not as common then as it is in the present day. The second perspective, Part B, is a research study focussing on the perceptions of students taking this unit in 2013 and 2014. In this study, it was found that the number of students who perceived chemistry to be applicable to real world problems increased during the unit, as did the number of students who enjoyed the unit. However, many students, most of whom did not intend to study chemistry further, did not recognise the application of the content to their future careers. There are many similarities between the aims of E/Prof. Chandler and Dr Simpson for the unit and the perceptions of students taking this unit 30 years later, which is testament to Graham’s contribution to chemistry education at the University of Western Australia.


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