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Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education — STICE Project

STICE Project Supported by IUPAC and IOCD
Peter Mahaffy and Stephen Matlin served as co-chairs of a Task Group for an IUPAC project on systems thinking into chemistry education (STICE), which was co-funded by IOCD, 2017-2019. Other members of the Task Group of global chemistry and chemistry education leaders included:
  • 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
  • Jennifer MacKellar
The STICE project examined the role of systems thinking, both to strengthen core chemistry education and to facilitate improved connections between chemistry and Earth and societal systems. The primary focus was on the gate-keeper general chemistry course at the post-secondary level.

References

  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.

References

  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.
STICE Activities and Outputs
Very little work had hitherto been done on the incorporation of systems thinking in chemistry education. The STICE project group explored what could be learned from other disciplines which had already embraced a systems approach, such as biology and engineering, as well as considering the specific characteristics of chemistry and the ways that systems thinking can enhance learning and contribute to achieving sustainability goals.
An early paper by members of the core STICE group discussed the central role of chemistry in providing the molecular basis of sustainability. It also presents a new visualization tool — the systems-oriented concept map extension (SOCME) to assist educators and learners to explore the boundaries of systems and sub-systems that are relevant to their courses.
As a major output of the project and to draw in relevant education experience from across the world, the STICE project arranged with the Journal of Chemical Education to produce a Special Issue of the Journal. A call for papers was published in 2018 and the Special Issue was published in late 2019. It included 43 papers, of which about a quarter were authored by members of the STICE project core group. One of the major contributions of the group, published as part of the Special Issue, was a paper on future directions. This recommended three main areas of future work to develop the application of systems thinking in chemistry education:
  • developing systems thinking resources for chemistry educators and students
  • identifying chemistry education research needed to investigate and improve systems thinking approaches
  • investigating opportunities to apply chemistry-related systems thinking approaches in broader educational contexts.
Overall, the STICE project was very successful and productive and achieved significant momentum for the introduction of systems thinking into chemistry education.

References

  1. P.G. Mahaffy, S. A. Matlin, T. A. Holme, J. MacKellar. A systems thinking framework for educating about the molecular basis of sustainability. Nature Sustainability 2019, 2, 362-370, doi: 10.1038/s41893-019-0285-3.
  2. P.G Mahaffy, E.J. Brush, J.A, Haack, F.M. Ho. Journal of Chemical Education call for papers &msah; Special issue on reimagining chemistry education: Systems thinking, and green and sustainable chemistry. J Chem Educ 2018, 95, 1689-1691, doi: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.8b00764
  3. Special issue. Reimagining chemistry education: Systems thinking, and green and sustainable chemistry. J Chem Educ, 2019, 96(12), 2679-3044.
  4. A. Flynn, M. Orgill, F. Ho, S. York, S.A. Matlin, D.J. C. Constable, P.G. Mahaffy. Future directions for systems thinking in chemistry education: Putting the pieces together. J Chem Educ 2019, 96, 3000-3005, doi: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b00637.
  5. P.G. Mahaffy, S.A. Matlin. Next hundred years: Systems thinking to educate about the molecular basis of sustainability. L'Actualité Chimique, December 2019, 446, 47-49.
  6. L. Howes, S. Lemonick. In these classrooms, chemistry is part of a larger whole. Chem & Eng News 2020, 98(5), 34-39.
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