News & Events

The Chemistry Teaching Laboratory Post-COVID

Tuesday, March 30, 2021 - 12:45 to 14:00
Michael Seery
School of Chemistry, University of Edinburgh
Event Category: 
LMC - Lectures in Modern Chemistry
Jay Wickenden
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Laboratory work is an integral component of any science curriculum, and requires substantial resources. In the last year, the purpose and capacity of laboratory work in the chemistry curriculum has come under extreme scrutiny, and as we move beyond COVID, there are opportunities to reimagine the laboratory future. At the core of this consideration must be an explicit statement of what laboratory education is for. (1)

In chemistry, there has been significant interest in reforming the laboratory curriculum, although general discussions tend to focus on the binary choice of ‘expository or not’. Typically, innovations and new approaches tend to favour approaches that dismiss recipe-style laboratories. By framing the laboratory as a complex learning environment, this discussion can become more nuanced, as it becomes possible to consider various cognitive demands on students in laboratory classes. (2) This discussion incorporates what role the laboratory resources and graduate teaching assistants play in supporting students, and what kinds of resources are pedagogically appropriate. In this presentation I aim to use the concept of a complex learning environment to advocate a more structured approach to designing a laboratory curriculum, consistent with theories of learning. Especial focus will be on our research into preparing for laboratory work, (3) and the role such preparation plays in supporting student learning of techniques (4) and in developing experimental design skills (5) in their laboratory work.


  1. Seery, M. K., Establishing the Laboratory as the Place to Learn How to Do Chemistry. Journal of Chemical Education 2020, 97 (6), 1511-1514.
  2. Seery, M. K.; Agustian, H. Y.; Zhang, X., A Framework for Learning in the Chemistry Laboratory. Israel Journal of Chemistry 2019, 59 (6-7), 546-553.
  3. Agustian, H. Y.; Seery, M. K., Reasserting the role of pre-laboratory activities in chemistry education: a proposed framework for their design. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2017, 18, 518-532.
  4. Seery, M. K.; Agustian, H. Y.; Doidge, E. D.; Kucharski, M. M.; O’Connor, H. M.; Price, A., Developing laboratory skills by incorporating peer-review and digital badges. Chemistry Education Research and Practice 2017, 18 (3), 403-419.
  5. Seery, M. K.; Jones, A. B.; Kew, W.; Mein, T., Unfinished Recipes: Structuring Upper-Division Laboratory Work To Scaffold Experimental Design Skills. Journal of Chemical Education 2019, 96 (1), 53-59.