Big Picture Focus

The Bigger Picture

I want them to get the big picture about what analytical chemistry is about in terms of solving an analytical chemistry problem.  They need to know the big picture rather than just focussing on the measurement step.

Focus on Actual Problem

Too often I think students and others think that analytical chemistry is just that measurement step.  When you use the AA, when you use the ... and doesn’t take into account, well all of the other stuff, what’s the actual problem you’re trying to solve?  What are you actually trying to do, sampling, measurement, validating your results? Because only then when you’ve got a result, only then does it actually become information.

Reflect and Be Flexible

So the strategy is to reflect, to change things, to be flexible, to talk to them but not talk down to them, and certainly I would say to any young lecturer don’t be writing the lecture the night before. Know what your course is because then you can jump back and forth as you talk about something.  You can say yeah we talked about this a week ago or something like that, you know. Know what you’re going to talk about, the whole thing, because then you can put it all together as a package.

Key Principles

The big picture is that in any topic there’re key principles, and if you as a lecturer can get across the key principles, that then sets them up to solve problems and to think about the other principles and how they connect.  But if they don’t, if they’re not prepared to accept the fact that there are these key principles you need to understand then it’s not going to work.

Hacking Through the Forest

When we’re teaching ideas in chemistry, I liken it to hacking your way through a forest.  It’s all this detail.... and you can’t expect students to do the hard work of fighting your way through the forest or the jungle, unless they have a global view of where they’re going.

Holistic Approach

I think personally the quicker the students can see that holistic approach to chemistry the better... Because that’s when they start to realise how cool it is.

Strong and Weak Acids

Students from high school might understand that vinegar for example is a weak acid compared to hydrochloric acid, but they never knew why. And you could then show them that with equilibrium, this is why. And all of a sudden they’re, 'oh, I’ve always known that I shouldn’t spill HCL on my hand, but I can spill vinegar on my hand and put it on my fish and chips'... Those sorts of moments can really... the students go ‘oh wow.’


Link to Previous Experience

It’s really important always to keep going back to links of where they might have seen equilibrium previously, because then they start to get the idea of chemistry topics being interrelated. Even put at the end of each lecture a little problem, for example, ‘how is equilibrium related to acids and bases?’ Even if they don’t understand it yet, just mention it so it’s in the back of their mind when they do learn about that topic.

Discuss in Terms of Concentration

Extend equilibrium to a more general discussion of concentration. If you increase the amount of one reactant, or if you compress the system - all of those things could be considered just as changes of concentration. Rather than splitting them up into different categories of changes of concentration. If you change the concentration of one or more species, there’s a net reaction in the direction that relieves that change. It’s that holistic approach to understanding concentration.

Relate to Students' Experiences

Relate equilibrium to students’ own experience of strong versus weak acids. For example, you can put vinegar on your fish and chips but not HCl. From high school they might have an understanding that vinegar is a weak acid compared to hydrochloric acid, but they never knew why. And you could then show them that with equilibrium, this is why. 


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