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Building capabilities in chemistry education: happiness and discomfort through philosophical dialogue in chemistry

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Publication details

JournalChemistry Education Research and Practice
DateAccepted/In press - 9 Dec 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 10 Dec 2019
DatePublished (current) - 10 Dec 2019
Issue number1
Number of pages14
Pages (from-to)438-451
Early online date10/12/19
Original languageEnglish


Much attention is given to student satisfaction in higher education, driven in the UK by accountability mechanisms such as the National Student Survey (NSS) and the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF). However satisfaction is both limited and limiting, depending on students’ expectations and often associated with the avoidance of difficulty and discomfort. A more appropriate outcome for higher education is well-being and ability to flourish. This paper identifies a gap in undergraduate chemistry education. Talking Chemistry created an extracurricular space for undergraduate chemistry students to build capabilities to flourish through philosophical dialogue about chemistry. It involved 25 undergraduates over one academic year (2018-19). Drawing on ethnographic observations, questionnaires and in-depth semi-structured individual interviews, we argue that philosophical dialogue in undergraduate chemistry studies opens up opportunities for discomfort that can contribute to students’ capabilities to achieve happiness and well-being by challenging students to think about their subject in new ways. Philosophical dialogue is a missing component of chemistry education, and we present a model for introducing it into higher education.

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    Research areas

  • chemistry education, philosophy, capabilities

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