Dr Linnea Soler & Dr Smita Odedra
Drew Gupwell & Sinead O’Hara (BSc project students)
Smita Odedra & Linnea Soler (project co-supervisors)
School of Chemistry, University of Glasgow
Table of Content
Curiosity, coupled with a deep-desire to enhance the student learning experience (SLE), drives, and underpins our SoTL and discipline-based education research (DBER). In-fact, our motto, “see a need, fill a need”, shamelessly plucked from the movie “Robots”, describes our motivations and aspirations. Although we trained as research chemists, we now focus our academic energies on exploring a variety of topics surrounding the learning and teaching of Chemistry, with the aim to understand and to enhance both the staff and the student experience. We are firm believers in the power of collaborative working (or the “two heads are better than one” approach), with this approach bringing us both joy and motivation as we explore, learn, and develop as SoTL and DBER academics. As a result, our creativity and our confidence continue to grow, with this feeding into an upward spiral of productivity and expertise. Furthermore, we just have fun doing what we do, and this is really the joy of SoTL for us – doing meaningful work, with collaborators who bring in different skills and knowledge-sets, to learn together, to add to the community of knowledge and understanding with the ultimate aim of supporting teaching and learning for both academics and students, alike.
One set of collaborators, our final-year Chemistry project students, bring us genuine joy and they provide us with a unique and authentic insight for our mutual research and scholarship topics. We have had the pleasure of co-supervising a number of these BSc/MSci students, each with a different SoTL/DBER research topic, over a number of years and we are continually impressed and deeply pleased with what they achieve and how they enhance the research, demonstrating that our student-staff partnership is a powerful approach to enhancing learning and teaching.
Another set of highly valued collaborators are our academic colleagues, both discipline-based and non-chemistry based, from across our university, and from beyond our university. Each collaboration brings added value and understanding and the pleasure of establishing relationships beyond our local network. Furthermore, we are fortunate to be able to call on the intellect and experience of our ever friendly and patient Academic and Digital Development (UofG ADD) team who (honestly, this is not a shameless bit of obsequiousness, we promise) are crucial and core to our development as SoTLers and DBERs. SoTL is all about teamwork, and we are so extremely fortunate to have found our tribe and to be able to continue to grow our membership.
Working with our Students
This leads us to what we are sharing here and now with you, which is something that has been formed and shaped through our interactions with our colleagues, from our reflections on how to support our project students, and arising from our urge to take creative approaches to make things more fun to engage with (both from the creation stage and the engagement stage) and to add value to the learning process.
With our final year project students, we aim to tackle different aspects of the student learning experience. Ideally, we would like to understand the current environment and sometimes this comes from our own experience, as well as from our project student’s lived experiences. These help to shape and form our research and SoTL questions, define the methods and methodologies, establish the aim of the project, and drive the direction of development of any teaching resources, as needed. These projects are underpinned by pedagogy, and we strive to align them to the Learning and Teaching strategies, with the intention to make any outputs more relevant and applicable for our community. Our project students are always delighted to know that their work does have lasting impact and can help shape future work and policy within our institution.
However, it can be quite a daunting task to start a SoTL/ChemEd project as a final year student when all previous training has been for research/lab-based chemistry projects. There are many concepts and underlying knowledge that is needed to be able to even start planning projects such as ours. Therefore, we have established a process whereby our students collaborate to create an output, within the first 3-4 weeks of term, from their exploration and research of concepts that may underpin their project literature reviews. Through collaboration, they gain a deeper understanding of these unfamiliar topics. In addition, this exercise builds a sense of belonging to our group as well as training in data mining, referencing, and communication.
The trick is to find key words and topics that are applicable to all students, and then more specific terms to research for each individual student, depending on their project. So, our two current co-supervised final-year project students, Drew Gupwell and Sinead O’Hara, are undertaking projects that will feed into all of the L&T Strategies, depending on the reach, depth, and success of each project. Drew is exploring how to support the transition into Higher Education Chemistry by creating resources to support student learning pre-, during-, and post-lectures. Sinead is exploring the potential of creative approaches to support inclusive assessment and feedback in the undergraduate chemistry labs. Both projects are intended to foster creativity in the approaches to achieving these goals.
Therefore, it is with great pleasure, that we share with you this creative collaborative output, created by Sinead and Drew, to highlight and explain, some of the key concepts identified that may feed into their literature survey and dissertation introduction, as well as help their transition into the world of SoTL and DBER.
In keeping with our theme of promoting creativity, we asked them to create their output, not on Word or Powerpoint, but by using a HTML platform to create an interactive online experience. This output showcases what they have learned as well as their personal flair, style, and interests – essentially proving that fostering creativity makes for an engaging learning experience.
We hope you enjoy and appreciate this as much as we do.
Dr Linnea Soler & Dr Smita Odedra