Making Chemistry an Attractive Subject for Lifelong Learning: Interactive Approach in Presenting Educational Content

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1 Making Chemistry an Attractive Subject for Lifelong Learning: Interactive Approach in Presenting Educational Content Milena Koleva, Lilyana Nacheva-Skopalik Technical University of Gabrovo (Bulgaria) Abstract A necessary step to make Chemistry more attractive and understandable, so as to encourage young people to study scientific subjects, is to present chemical knowledge in more attractive way, using interactive methods and ICT. The paper presents an analysis of results from evaluation of the interactive ICT based educational packages elaborated during the LLP Project Chemistry is all around us. The analysis was based on the opinion of two groups: Bulgarian secondary school teachers and adult learners. The educational materials have been highly evaluated as a good manner to attract the interest of the learners. 1. Introduction Among the scientific fields Chemistry is recognised as one of the most problematic and difficult subject. It suffers from a permanently growing unpopularity due to some negative trends which are well expressed not only in Bulgarian education system but in other European countries also. As a part of the fundamental education Chemistry learning in Bulgarian schools starts in the primary school, continues in the secondary for a period of - 3 years depending on the profile of the school and finishes in the university degree where (with the exception of the specialized universities) it is taught/studied for one semester [1, ]. Interest in learning Chemistry has been plummeting for a long time and is rooted in the changes in society and related with them changes in organization of the learning process in primary and secondary schools. Government policy in the field of education was for long time characterized with: Lack of precise vision and policy concerning the volume and quality of chemistry knowledge (theory and practice) at the different education levels (primary, secondary, vocational, higher - for chemists and higher education for non chemists) on behalf of the Ministry for education. Shortage of financing for the educational and scientific institutions for modernization of the material base and for use of modern equipment; Insufficient motivation of the learners, the teachers, firm leadership for life long learning (in particular in the field of chemistry); No prospects for professional realization - chemistry is deemed inapplicable in opting for profession; Long years of continuous disinterestedness of the state in the matters education and culture [3,]. The process of teaching and learning Chemistry at school level is accompanied with a number of difficulties and unsettled problems. Some of the most frequently faced ones are:

2 Academic style of course book content which is difficult to understand for students - Course and reference books in chemistry abound in theorizing which encumbers the students and gives them poor motivation. This tendency is sustainable both at grade and high schools; Material taught is not oriented to practice; Not enough training courses for teachers related to the interactive methods of teaching chemistry; Lack of synchrony between the specialists in information technologies who could work out interactive education and demonstration materials for visualization of difficult for demonstration alive of chemical processes and the teachers in chemistry who could present the corresponding tasks and education contents with the aid of these materials; Depreciated material base and insufficient modern equipment the lack of proper equipment is one of the most serious problems related with the study of chemistry [5-7]. As a result students are poorly motivated for learning Chemistry - most of them perceive Chemistry as a complicated and incomprehensible subject, filled with formulae, mathematic expressions and long inapprehensible terms. Very similar obstacles face other countries also. Interviews to teachers and adult learners from partner countries in Chemistry is all around us project, showed that the relationship student Chemistry is destroyed because of the following: Chemistry has a bad image - chemistry idea is associated to negative aspects of life and is considered as the opposite of what is natural; Chemistry is considered a difficult subject because makes use of difficult language and seems to be abstract; Chemistry teachers are not adequate. Many of them are not graduated in chemistry and most of them did not attend a specific training necessary to learn to teach ; Text book are too difficult; Laboratory activities are absent or, in the best cases, sporadic or inadequate. There is a lack of motivation. Students and adults think that chemistry is an abstract subject and do not manage to see its connection with everyday life. Moreover they do not know at all the job opportunities of a chemist []. Based on the analyses of the current situation possible approaches to improve the teachinglearning process and to motivate learners to study Chemistry could be formulated as: Improvement the organization of the educational process: making explanations in easy to understand language and support them with practical exercises; involving students in scientific activities at school with their teachers, but also outside school (i.e. at universities or companies and organized by researchers and experts); Developing tools and alternative teaching material to be used by teachers; novel innovative methods of training are to be introduced relying heavily on ICT; Providing continuous training to chemistry teachers; Development of conditions for self-realization of young people - young people should be offered clearly defined prospects for self realization and professional progress [ -11].

3 In the context of the above one of the main topics of Chemistry is a Al Around Us European project was to develop, in cooperation with chemistry teachers, pilot interactive and easy to access educational materials, specifically designed to diffuse and promote the knowledge and awareness of learners of all level of the educational and training systems about Chemistry. The paper presents an analysis of results from evaluation of the interactive ICT based educational packages elaborated during the Project, based on the opinion of Bulgarian secondary school teachers and adult learners.. Development of education and training material Developed educational and training material relate to some specific thematic areas of Chemistry chosen on the basis of the interest expressed by the teachers during the interviews and the scientific expertise of the Project partners. The chosen thematic areas were defined as Chemistry in Everyday life, Chemistry at home, Chemistry and Environment, Chemistry and Art, Chemistry in Science Fiction, and Materials for Special Use. For each of the thematic areas, 3 topics were identified in order to be approached so as to give evidence of their connection with Chemistry. Each of the topics of each thematic area was organized according to a previously discussed structure and included: An Informative introductory text it was written with a scientifically oriented language, but keeping the information provided simple and essential, so that even the less experienced user can understand without difficulties; the text was enriched by Hot Words linked to materials to be used by the more curious users, with images and schemes in order to make it attractive and easy to access; A collection of links - it offers to the users a number of already existing websites that could facilitate for further the comprehension of the connections between the issue and Chemistry related information; A set of Interactive activities and exercises - practical activities and exercises propose experiments to be carried out easily at home, in classroom or laboratories in order to help the user in understanding the concrete influence that chemistry has on the issue. All produced education and training materials were published in English and in the native language on the Project portal. Forum area that allows a direct contact between the experts and the users in order to answer questions, consult or provide additional scientific information was activated also []. 3. Analysis of results from evaluation of the interactive ICT based education packages 3.1. Profile of the end users involved Secondary school teachers and adult learners were chosen as end users to evaluate the education packages. Teachers involved in the evaluation were chosen mainly among the secondary school teachers in chemistry, environmental protection (in most Bulgarian secondary schools the two subjects are combined in one) and biology. The distribution of the teachers by age show relatively equal parts of two categories: 3 5 years old and more than years old. This fact guaranteed adequate professional experience - more than 15 years for 9% of them. Most of the teachers represent the two main types of Bulgarian secondary schools: comprehensive and vocational. They were involved in educational process with age students. Another teachers represent the primary schools where pupils start learning chemistry and creating basic knowledge on the subject.

4 Most of the adult end users involved in the evaluation were -35 ages old and from all educational degrees: secondary school, university and 1 PhD also. The strategy applied considering the current occupation of the adults was to represent as more as it is possible fields of professional realization. The purpose was to evaluate how the different level of knowledge in Chemistry, defined by the level of education and then by professional realization, influence the evaluation. Adult end users involved were technicians (secondary school degree), medical doctors (post-graduation degree), chemical engineers, mechanical engineer and 1 engineer in electronics. 3.. Evaluation methodology Evaluation of the education and training materials was a part of the general Project portal evaluation and was held using question forms for teachers and for adults, structured in one and the same manner. Six education packages were evaluated by the end users: - Chemistry in Everyday life; - Chemistry at home; - Chemistry and Environment; package - Chemistry and Art; - Chemistry in Science Fiction; - Materials for Special Use []. Each of the education packages was evaluated according to the following features: quality and relevance of the contents, clarity of contents, usefulness of the contents, contents structures and organization and potential of practical application of contents. The evaluation was expressed using a 5 degree - scale where 1 = very Bad and 5 = very good Results analysis Figures 1,, 3 and illustrate graphically the results obtained by the evaluation X-axis represents the value (from 1 to 5) and Y-axis the number of evaluations with the relevant value. Comparative analysis of the results obtained by secondary school teachers and adult users show quite similar trends. According both to teachers and adults the education packages are important and directly applicable to the secondary school education. More of the educational packages expand and enrich the educational content of Chemistry as a scientific subject at school. They contribute to the Chemistry at understandable level. The educational content is exhaustive and fully corresponds to the educational content in Chemistry and Biology (fig.1). The content is presented in easy to understand way. Examples presented are useful and illustrate problems from the real life. Most of the end users find the educational content of all packages very useful - it could be seen at figure, presenting the distribution of values (1-5) about usefulness of the content for every package given by teachers and adults. 1 package Quality and relevance of the contents 1 package Quality and relevance of the contents Teachers evaluation Adults evaluation Fig.1. Distribution of values (1-5) about the quality and relevance of the content Package 1 Chemistry in Everyday life was highly evaluated by teachers and adults concerning its content s clarity, structure and organization and usefulness. Package Chemistry at home was

5 appreciated with the highest grades for the usefulness of content by adult users (fig.). Package 3 Chemistry and Environment was well evaluated both by teachers and adult considering all evaluated features. 1 package Usefulness of the contents 1 package Usefulness of the contents Teachers evaluation Adults evaluation Fig.. Distribution of values (1-5) about the usefulness of the content Package Chemistry and Art was given a relatively low grade considering the potential of practical application (fig.3). Package 5 Chemistry in Science Fiction was evaluated both by teachers and adults as not so topical and applicable in the context of school education. 1 package Potential of practical application 1 package Potential of practical application Teachers evaluation Adults evaluation Fig.3. Distribution of values (1-5) about the potential of practical application Package Materials for Special Use was highly evaluated by all end users particularly about the usefulness of content. The final evaluation of the education materials (fig.) illustrates how teachers and adults accept the educational content. Teachers evaluation is more moderate and not so differentiated - maybe because of the professional experience they are able to find precisely the place of all presented themes in the educational process as an instrument to motivate students to study Chemistry. The evaluation of adult users is based mostly onto the usefulness of the contents from the viewpoint of the practical application - adult users are interested in packages contents mainly as additional source of knowledge on the presented topics.

6 1 package General evaluation of packages 1 package General evaluation of packages Teachers Adults Fig.. General evaluation of educational packages Both two groups of end users shared one and the same opinion: more animations, multimedia films and other ICT- based instrument should be included to illustrate the theoretical problems in Chemistry and help students in their understanding.. Conclusions Both the two participants in the Chemistry education process school teachers and learners - consider the interactive approach in presenting chemical knowledge using ICT based education and training materials an efficient way to enhances the students interest and to stimulate the active learning process concerning Chemistry. The evaluated pilot education packages give well illustrated, useful and written in understandable way information about how Chemistry influences our everyday life. They help students to build scientific logical thinking and offer in simple way a good possibility for training in Chemistry and for practical application of the knowledge. References [1] Eurybase - Bulgaria, The Information Database on Education Systems in Europe - 5/ [] Fandykova, J. Program for Development of Education, Science and youth policies in Bulgaria (9 13 г.) [3] Totseva Y., N. Vitanova. National Educational Standarts or the king s new clothes vs. the old national educational requirements. Strategy for policy in science and education Vol. (9) pp [] Zahariev B., Educational System Inadequate reforms. Politics, Vol 7 (9) [5] Tafrova-Grigorova A., M. Kirova, E. Boiadjieva, A. Kuzmanov. State Educational Requirements: Expecation and reality. Chemistry.Vol 17 (11) () [] Gendjova A., L. Boyanova, Chemistry Learning problems Conditioned by the Lack of Visual Thinking Skills [7] Monova T., Methods and tools of the Teaching Cehmical Experiments: A University Subject and Its Instructional Design.Chemistry.Vol 1 () (9) [] LLP Project Chemistry is all around us, Transnational report. [9] Gyrova V., V. Bojilova. The portfolio of the teacher factor in the quality of education. Sofia University. [1] Toshev B., 3th national conference of Bulgarian chemistry teachers.

7 [11] Boyanova L., About quality of Chemistry and Enviornment Education, A Student s personel Oriented Education

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