Pre-Reading 4: Simon Rees – undertaking chemistry education research


MICER abstract

In this presentation I will discuss two aspects of my experience of undertaking chemistry education research.  Having completed my PhD in Chemistry Education last year, I shall reflect on this experience and the challenges involved.  I will highlight key considerations for such an undertaking and lessons learnt.  Secondly, I shall discuss the methodology of semi-structured interviews, transcription and data analysis.  This process will be exemplified using sample data analysed for chemical language usage.

Session preparation

  • For those interested in undertaking case study research, this paper provides some good examples of practice:
    • Cink, R. B., & Song, Y. (2016). Appropriating scientific vocabulary in chemistry laboratories: a multiple case study of four community college students with diverse ethno-linguistic backgrounds. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 17(3), 604-617.
  • A recently published paper:
    • Rees, S. W. & Kind, V. (2018) Can language focussed activities improve understanding of chemical language in non-traditional students? Chemistry Education Research and Practice, ASAP.
  • This video provides useful guidance on undertaking student interviews:


I am Head of Scholarship at the Foundation Centre, Durham University.  The Foundation Centre is a widening participation initiative aimed at providing the opportunity for students without the usual academic qualifications to study for a degree at the university.  I teach a one year, A-level equivalent chemistry course to students progressing onto a range of science undergraduate degree programmes.  Working with such a diverse group of students presents many challenges and led to the development of my research interests in the language of chemistry, widening participation and technology enhanced learning.  I commenced my PhD in Chemistry Education in 2011 and graduated in the summer of 2017 almost 20 years to the day since I graduated with my first PhD in Biochemistry from Newcastle University! My educational philosophy is grounded in breaking down barriers and demonstrating that chemistry is a subject that anyone can successfully engage with.  I employ pedagogical strategies that actively engage learners in developing linguistic and conceptual understanding through social discourse.  In addition to my teaching in the Foundation Centre, I collaborate with the School of Education and local schools on a range of projects such as “The Year of Science” and the “Science and Literacy Together” (SaLT) programme.  I also organise and lead CPD events across the institution relating to teaching and learning such as inclusion and assessment and feedback.   Prior to joining the Foundation Centre, I taught chemistry for 10 years in Further and Secondary Education.   I was elected as member of the Education Division Council of the RSC in 2014 and I am currently Chair of the 11-16 Curriculum and Assessment Working Group, Chair of the Educational Techniques Group and committee member of the Chemistry Education Research Group.



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