Chemistry education (or chemical education) is the study of the teaching and learning of chemistry in all schools, colleges and universities. Topics in chemistry education might include understanding how students learn chemistry, how best to teach chemistry, and how to improve learning outcomes by changing teaching methods and appropriate training of chemistry instructors, within many modes, including classroom lecture, demonstrations, and laboratory activities.
There is a constant need to update the skills of teachers engaged in teaching chemistry, and so chemistry education addresses this need.
There are at least four different philosophical perspectives that describe how the work in chemistry education is carried out. The first is what one might call a practitioner's perspective, wherein the individuals who are responsible for teaching chemistry (teachers, instructors, professors) are the ones who ultimately define chemistry education by their actions.
A second perspective is defined by a self-identified group of chemical educators, faculty members and instructors who, as opposed to declaring their primary interest in a typical area of laboratory research (organic, inorganic, biochemistry, etc.), take on an interest in contributing suggestions, essays, observations, and other descriptive reports of practice into the public domain, through journal publications, books, and presentations. Dr. Robert L. Lichter, then-Executive Director of the Camille and Henry Dreyfus Foundation, speaking in a plenary session at the 16th Biennial Conference on Chemical Education (recent BCCE meetings: ,), posed the question "why do terms like 'chemical educator' even exist in higher education, when there is a perfectly respectable term for this activity, namely, 'chemistry professor.' One criticism of this view is that few professors bring any formal preparation in or background about education to their jobs, and so lack any professional perspective on the teaching and learning enterprise, particularly discoveries made about effective teaching and how students learn.
A third perspective is chemical education research (CER). Following the example of physics education research (PER), CER tends to take the theories and methods developed in pre-college science education research, which generally takes place in Schools of Education, and applies them to understanding comparable problems in post-secondary settings (in addition to pre-college settings). Like science education researchers, CER practitioners tend to study the teaching practices of others as opposed to focusing on their own classroom practices. Chemical education research is typically carried out in situ using human subjects from secondary and post-secondary schools. Chemical education research utilizes both quantitative and qualitative data collection methods. Quantitative methods typically involve collecting data that can then be analyzed using various statistical methods. Qualitative methods include interviews, observations, journaling, and other methods common to social science research.
Finally, there is an emergent perspective called The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL). Although there is debate on how to best define SoTL, one of the primary practices is for mainstream faculty members (organic, inorganic, biochemistry, etc.) to develop a more informed view of their practices, how to carry out research and reflection on their own teaching, and about what constitutes deep understanding in student learning.
Chemistry courses are required for many university students, especially for students who are studying science. Some students find chemistry classes and lab work stressful. This anxiety has been called chemophobia. Fears commonly center on academic performance, the difficulty of learning chemical equations, and fear of getting lab chemicals on the hands. Women students were more anxious than men. Previous exposure to learning chemistry was associated with lower anxiety. See also chemophobia for aversion to chemical compounds rather than chemistry as a subject in education.
There are many journals where papers related to chemistry education can be found or published. Historically, the circulation of many of these journals was limited to the country of publication. Some concentrate on chemistry at different education levels (schools vs. universities) while others cover all education levels. Most of these journals carry a mixture of articles that range from reports on classroom and laboratory practices to educational research.
Much research in chemistry education is also published in journals in the wider science education field.