Big Picture Focus

Put Material into Context

You can liken teaching chemistry to hacking your way through a forest. It’s a lot of detail, and you can’t expect students to do the hard work of fighting their way through the forest or the jungle, unless they have a global view of where they’re going. Keep going back to applications in the real world. How is it that geckos can crawl up a wall, and sit on the ceiling without falling off? How is it they’re able to stay there with gluey legs or something? How do they maximise the attractions between the molecules in their feet and the molecules in the ceiling?

Link to Lab Experience

Use examples from the lab course/component to link to their own experience.

A Series of Models

Try and get across the bigger picture - everything you're going to do is going to be a model. Nothing is going to be right. Nothing is going to be wrong. Nothing is going to be exactly the way it is. Everything is a series of models.


Use anecdotes from your own experience. It builds emotional connections.

Relate to Students' Planned Careers

The nature of the students is that there are some that are interested in this topic in its own right. But many of them want to end up doing organic chemistry and pharmacology, or medicine of some sort. This is a theory which is too much physics for some of them, so you’ve always got to relate it back to their own interests.

Qualitative Introduction

Introduce quantum mechanics in a very qualitative way, so they don’t get worried about it in a big way or worry about the mathematical treatments. Introduce just the big thing that it can tell us, but not be too concerned about the details. The ideas that flow from the qualitative concept are very important, but the mathematical treatment is not so important to them at that stage.

The Analytical Approach

Rather than focusing on techniques, you need to look at the big picture - a holistic big picture of the analytical approach. That’s not going to change, but over time the techniques do change. For example, radiological techniques such as scintillation counters are not used much anymore.


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