NWU executive dean delivers public lecture on chemistry

Issued by
Johannesburg, Jun 9, 2017

Professor Helen Drummond, the executive dean of the Faculty of Agriculture, Science and Technology at the North-West University's (NWU's) campus in Mahikeng, recently delivered a public lecture titled "Competence in Chemistry: Component Steps to Skills and Strategies".

Prof Drummond, a recipient of the South African Chemical Institute (SACI) Chemical Education Medal for her outstanding contribution in chemical education, delivered this lecture as part of her talk on this award.

The core of Prof Drummond's lecture was about her proposition of a skills-based approach to teaching chemistry. This approach proposes that all skills, be they the representation of knowledge, or mathematical or visualisation skills, can be broken down into their component steps, and that strategies such as problem solving, broken down into their component skills, can be taught. Prof Drummond strongly emphasised that, when teaching these critical skills to students, each step must be thoroughly understood, otherwise the overall skill or strategy will not be mastered.

"Much has been written on the need to improve chemistry teaching and learning, and to make chemistry more attractive to students. Thus there have been numerous innovations in chemistry teaching, many of which focus on using different media or rearranging the way in which content is taught," said Prof Drummond.

"The use of strategies which are likely to lead to a correct answer will improve students' confidence, their competence and their success rate," said Prof Drummond. "The performance of students has been shown to improve when they receive guidance in the use of skills and strategies, and this should translate to higher grades in chemistry," she concluded.

Since being a teacher at Mmabatho High School for three years, and then transferring to the Chemistry Department of the former University of Bophuthatswana in 1985, Prof Drummond's contributions to teaching and research in the field of chemistry have been widely welcomed, earning her numerous excellence awards.

She has published several journal articles and book chapters on chemical education during her career, and has co-authored an introductory chemistry textbook together with NWU academic, Prof Mailoo Selvaratnam.

Over the years Prof Drummond has been involved in various types of community and committee work, which includes the Rural Education Trust, SAARMSTE (Southern African Association for Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education) and Eskom Expo for Young Scientists. She has also recently taken on the coordination of the chemical education section of SACI.