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A view of a lively first RSC Teaching Fellows Meeting

Posted 9th April 2013

The first Chemistry Teaching Fellows Meeting was recently organised by the RSC. This meeting follows recognition by the RSC that these roles are increasingly important in Higher Education. This was confirmed by attendance by approximately thirty delegates from universities from all around the UK. Consequently the RSC aimed to help support members in these roles and promote networking opportunities.

Initially Dr Natalie Rowley facilitated an introductory discussion of everyone’s roles in their own university. This highlighted the diverse descriptions of the roles from a broad spectrum of teaching to focusing mainly on managing a particular laboratory. The number of teaching fellows within a particular chemistry department and indeed university also varied widely.

Mario Moustras followed on discussing changes in the HE landscape in the UK and how this might impact on science graduates and their education. He also explained how the RSC wanted to support teaching fellows and improve their status and career progression.

Rosalind Onions highlighted the resources available on the RSC’s Learn Chemistry website. In recent years the RSC has been developing many educational resources aimed at undergraduate students to help with not only their chemical knowledge but also their employability skills. The RSC is keen to act as a repository for other suitable educational material once it has been peer reviewed for both usefulness and accuracy.

Jenny Burnham explained how she’d set up a teacher fellows network at the University of Sheffield and how such positions there had a clear career pathway. Although a similar route is present at several other universities, it was clear that some teaching fellows felt their university didn’t know how to best support their career.

I was then fortunate to be one of the six teaching fellows who spoke about their role and research in science education and outreach. Noteworthy talks included an enthusiastic use by students of Peerwise to provide a bank of self-assessment questions in Nottingham and discussion of outreach and teacher training in the Sheffield Science Lab. Finally James Gaynor advertised the Variety in Chemistry Education (ViCE) and the Physics Higher Education Conference (PHEC) in Liverpool 29-30 August 2013.

All in all this first meeting provided a lively, positive and informative discussion and I look forward to the one next year.

Simon Collinson, Faculty of Science

Image: Karen Parker