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Chemical Sciences in Development

Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education - STICE Project

IUPAC and IOCD Support STICE Project
Peter Mahaffy and Stephen Matlin are co-chairs of a Task Group for a IUPAC project on systems thinking into chemistry education, which is co-funded by IOCD.
This project brings together a distinguished task force of global chemistry and chemistry education leaders to articulate learning objectives for infusing systems thinking and sustainability considerations into the formal teaching of chemistry, with a primary focus on the gate-keeper general chemistry course at the post-secondary level. The project group will also suggest strategies to guide the use of these learning objectives in the design of curriculum and selection of engaging pedagogies. Broad consultation with global chemistry educators is being carried out to explore the most effective ways to move toward fuller infusion of systems thinking. The project group proposes to profile findings at the 2019 World Chemistry Congress in Paris during the IUPAC Centenary, in keeping with the strong emphasis at the IUPAC Centenary on highlighting ways for chemistry to contribute to solutions to present and future global challenges.
Members of the Task Group include:
  • Jan Apotheker
  • Suzanne Boniface
  • Robert B. Bucat
  • Yehudit Judy Dori
  • Temechegn Engida
  • Alison Flynn
  • Jonathan Forman
  • Felix M. Ho
  • Tom Holme
  • Jorge G. Ibáńez-Cornejo
  • Rachel Mamlok-Naaman
  • Liliana L. Mammino
  • MaryKay Orgill
  • Tina Overton
  • Ting-Kueh Soon
  • Vicente Talanquer
  • Marcy Towns


  1. Learning Objectives and Strategies for Infusing Systems Thinking into (Post)-Secondary General Chemistry Education. IUPAC Project No. 2017-010-1-050. International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, Research Triangle Park, NC 2017.
Preliminary Framework
In a preliminary analysis, published in Nature Chemistry Reviews and discussed at the International Conference on Chemistry Education in Sydney in July 2018, a framework was developed for examination of components in systems thinking applied to chemistry education. This framework comprises three nodes that are centred on the learner:
  • The learner systems node explores and describes the processes at work for learners, which include taxonomies of learning domains, learning theories, learning progressions, models for the phases of memory, the transition from rote to meaningful learning and social contexts for learning.
  • The chemistry teaching and learning node focuses on features of learning processes applied to the unique challenges of learning chemistry. These include the use of pedagogical content knowledge; analysis of how the intended curriculum is enacted, assessed, learned and applied; and student learning outcomes that include responsibility for the safe and sustainable use of chemicals, chemical reactions and technologies.
  • The earth and societal systems node orients chemistry education toward meeting societal and environmental needs articulated in initiatives such as the UN Sustainable Development Goals and descriptions of the earth's planetary boundaries. Educational systems to address the interface of chemistry with earth and societal systems include green chemistry and sustainability education, and use tools such as life cycle analysis.


  1. P. G. Mahaffy, A. Krief, H. Hopf, G. Mehta, S. A. Matlin. Reorienting chemistry education through systems thinking. Nature Reviews Chemistry 2018, 2, 1-3. doi:10.1038/s41570.018.0126.
  2. P. G. Mahaffy,S. A. Matlin. Seeing the forest while in the trees: systems thinking in science education. Keynote presentation at the 25th International Conference on Chemistry Education, Sydney, 10-14 July 2018.
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