New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 12

Accepted Abstracts

Some Challenges for Teaching and Learning Third Level (University) Science

Peter Childs, University of Limerick (Ireland)


I taught chemistry at third level (university) in Ireland from 1978 to 2009 and previously taught at University in Uganda (1970-76). I am still involved in chemical education research (CER) aimed at improving the teaching and learning of chemistry at second and third level in Ireland. Based on nearly 40 years teaching science at university, I want to talk about some of the contemporary challenges now facing those teaching science at third level. These challenges and problems are common to most countries. In the talk I will briefly discuss the following factors that impinge on and provide challenges for the teaching of third level science in 2015:

a) The second to third level transition;

b) The fact that  the majority of students have not studied a particular science at second level, which they will meet at third level;

c) The increasing diversity oif modern university students;

d) The problems of language in teaching and learning science;

e) The cognitive level of first year students;

f) The prevalence of students' scientific misconceptions;

g) The impact of IT on teaching, leaning and course delivery;

h) The lack of awareness and interest in science education rersearch (SER) amongst academics.

Teaching ability if not usually a major factor in appointing  or promoting university lecturers and often research is all that matters and teaching is secondary. The nature of universities and their intake has changed and unless academics take these changes on board, adapt and make teaching a higher priority, then we will see more drop-outs from science degrees and more poorly-prepared science graduates. A teaching philosophy whereby the lecturer says it, the students writes it down and then learns it for regurgitation in examinations, is no longer adequate in 2015.

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