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Global conference on teaching chemical science

Nobel laureate John Polanyi presented a plenary session at the conference

More than 450 educators from around the globe are gathering at the University of Toronto for a week-long conference dedicated to improving education in the chemical sciences.

The bi-annual International Conference on Chemistry Education, returns to Canada for the first time since 1989. This year, it focuses on communications, particularly on ways educators can forge global links in the chemistry teaching and learning communities, and how technological advances in communications can be used to establish innovative learning partnerships.

Senior lecturers Judith Poë and Andy Dicks are conference co-chairs. Both are members of the President’s Teaching Academy, and are passionate about sharing innovative ways to teach chemical sciences.

Poë points to important shifts in teaching practices and academic study, such as a growing interest in “greening” laboratories, the use of social media as a teaching tool, a new focus on global and multi-cultural perspectives and initiatives, real-world applications for knowledge and implementation of service learning projects for course credits.

Poë adds that the conference gives educators a chance to get out of the laboratory and share teaching techniques, resources and burgeoning technologies. In turn, this helps students learn and share their own knowledge more effectively.

A presentation by U of T professor Yu-Ling Cheng, associate professor Suzanne Jackson (Dalla Lana School of Public Health) and Asian Institute director Joseph Wong (Munk School of Global Affairs) promises to be a highlight of the week. Cheng will discuss an innovative interdisciplinary course that engages students in a practical outreach and research project on public health in Bangladesh. Now in its second year, Global Challenges: A Mechanism for Developing Global and Interdisciplinary Competencies unites students from engineering, health and social sciences to work with community stakeholders and faculty to develop solutions to a specific global issue. Current students are creating a sustainable plan to combat childhood hunger in Bangladesh.

Other ICCE presentations from U of T faculty and staff include:

  • Nobel Prize winner and U of T professor John Polanyi presents a plenary session, “How Discoveries Are Made, and Why it Matters”
  • UTM lecturer Paul Piunno, with Zeeshan Habeeb and Laura Fedoryshin, lead a practical course demonstration used in analytic chemistry classes. It features the use of fruit peels to remove heavy metals from water as a method to teach core concepts to students
  • Judith Poë presents on how to best engage the so-called “Echo Generation” through problem-based learning, an instructional pedagogy she has employed in her own teaching practice
  • Andy Dicks presents on several topics, including the use of freeware software, how to teach scientific writing to students and greening the chemistry lab
  • Senior Lecturer Chris Ambidge presents on the benefits for students and faculty in switching from paper reports to oral presentations in the classroom

The conference runs from July 13 to 19 and includes an opening reception and plenary session on the St. George Campus, technical sessions through the week at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and hands-on technical workshops at laboratories in U of T’s Lash Miller Building.

(See the full ICCE Conference program.)