Supporting first year chemistry in the biosciences

William Hagan, J David Ruddick, Stephen McClean

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


Chemistry provides an essential underpinning to applied bioscience subjects such as biology, biomedical sciences, pharmacology, human nutrition, food and nutrition and dietetics. However, many bioscience students are now admitted to university with little background in chemistry and yet chemistry-based techniques are increasingly being applied to biological systems. A first year, first semester chemistry module taken by a very wide group of students (encompassing the subjects listed above) has put into place a variety of mechanisms to support these students in a module where the students have traditionally struggled. These have included: printed handouts; regular, computer-driven summative tests (supported by practice questions); weekly assessment of practical work using standardised proformas; tutorial support with topics chosen by the students; and a web-based message board and text-messaging to improve communication. These measures have been welcomed by the students and course directors have also noted that there has been a marked increase in the general satisfaction with chemistry teaching. Apart from student performance in the coursework and examination components of the first semester chemistry module, which is the main indicator of the efficacy of our teaching strategies, we have incorporated a multivariate statistical analysis of the performance of a variety of student groups within the cohort . These groups are identified by the nature of their prior educational experience and entry qualifications. This detailed analysis of performance against prior experience across the cohort is a key element in our monitoring and evaluation of the strategies, which we have developed to achieve a common level of chemistry competence across the cohort. This allows us to respond effectively to the academic demography within the group and tailor our support effectively. The practice has been developed over the past three years with statistical data available to evaluate the practice.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherHigher Education Academy
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - Aug 2008
EventVariety in Chemistry Education - Dublin City University
Duration: 1 Aug 2008 → …


ConferenceVariety in Chemistry Education
Period1/08/08 → …
Internet address


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