Teaching Chemistry to non-chemists. Challenging alternative chemical conceptions

Posted by Maria Noelia Faginas Lago, Sanjiv Prashar, on March 19, 2022, 10:46 p.m.

Sanjiv Prashar, Jose M. Méndez-Arriaga, Josefa Ortiz-Bustos, Diana Díaz-García, Miguel Díaz-Sánchez, Santiago Gómez-Ruiz, Noelia M. Faginas-Lago

University Rey Juan Carlos, Madrid, Spain, University of Perugia, Italy

Challenge and goal

Teaching chemistry to students who are not chemistry majors is difficult for various reasons, including the complexity of the subject but also for the prejudiced dislike of the discipline caused by a mixture of a lack of respect and preconceived emotional and mental barriers.

We propose a program that includes the application of chemistry to everyday life (molecular cuisine, condensation ...). Based on real life, it should be easier to tackle the key concepts (background) which are base of the chemical discipline and to address the topics and provide practical insights from which to interpret, elaborate, translate and apply these concepts to the development of the particular degree program.

In parallel, we will develop innovative activities for students to correct misconceptions about chemistry. Using appropriate support we will move towards a change in teaching methodology towards more effective activities which should not neglect theoretical and experimental aspects.

Topic of the user case

Chemistry knowledge transfer background for non-chemists, Creativity; alternative chemistry conceptions.

Local context (specific)

The difficulty in being able to involve the students of scientific degrees other than Chemistry, due to the "bad" training of students in secondary schools in chemistry and above all highlighting what are the misconceptions on the basic topics in order to be able to carry out more advanced. It leads us to a greater diversity of classroom level and interest, implying a low level of the course because the previous information must be firstly corrected.

How to understand from the first day that chemistry increases and improves the quality of life and that everything around us is matter?

Local educational scope

To train professional figures who are skilled scientific communicators, who have a solid and rigorous preparation and are able to divulge understandable information, the existence of science and move away from scientific malnutrition due to learning processes.

Pre-knowledge / Background of the participating local teaching staff


Local CPD goals

Designing ad hoc courses to analyze the basic topics of chemistry and understand from a historical and epistemological point of view how to correct erroneous concepts and define the basic concepts necessary to start a scientific degree.


Needs defined in STEM-CPD Roadmap

6 cope with heterogeneous pre-knowledge of students
4 engage students and arouse interest for the discipline in the class
7 being able to bring out and correct misconceptions
5 be interested in their students' progress.
8 discuss teaching with their colleagues.
5 following online courses / MOOC about teaching and learning.
11 collaborating with a peer-lecturer on a redesign of a course.

CPD activities at the local university

  • stage 1: design ad hoc course using H5P to analyze alternative conceptions
  • stage 2: draw concept maps for the teacher to understand the flow of concepts to get to the base of the topic. Each of these maps must be accompanied by a self-test
  • stage 3: propose this changes in a ”real course” about how teach chemistry?

Teaching and learning materials


MicroMOOC: guide for the development and implementation of online tests based on H5P.

Sustainable implementation


Expected impact of the CPD User Case

Designing ad hoc courses to analyze the basic topics of chemistry and understand from a historical and epistemological point of view how to correct erroneous concepts and define the basic concepts necessary to start a scientific degree

Plans for eventual continuation of the CPD within the same topic


Constructive alignment, Engagement and motivation, facilitation discipline specific learning, Deep learning (type P1-1, P1-3b, P1-3c)

This CPD scenario describes a User case in which lecturers develop their competence in sound course design and how to engage and motivate students and how to facilitate discipline specific thinking and how to facilitate student’s deep learning and development of higher cognitive skills and develop attitudes in supporting student development and enabling students’ well-being in a learning process and inclusivity and knowledge sharing.
In this CPD scenario the participants are using a very short open online course, a micro mooc (μmooc) and professionalize in a close connection to their own teaching practice (at their workplace) and meet in person on location with the training staff and with other participants.

Learning environment

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