QAA Benchmark Statement for Chemistry: How digital tools support you
October 12, 2022
Earlier this year, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) released their 2022 Subject Benchmark Statement for Chemistry. It defines what can be expected of chemistry graduates in terms of knowledge and skills, and provides a framework for chemistry degrees. Statements like this are used by higher education providers in the design, development and review of degree courses, so it’s important to be aware of areas of chemistry education that they emphasise.
At LearnSci we aim to work alongside Chemistry educators, helping them enhance their courses and student experiences of learning, assessment and practical labs. This article discusses how we support four main themes of the QAA Statement:
Equality, diversity and inclusion
Course content, structure and delivery
Employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship
Education for sustainable development
1. Equality, diversity and inclusion
The benchmark statement emphasises the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion throughout. The virtual learning environment is considered to be a neutral and safe space1, so can contribute to maintaining an inclusive environment for learning. Ensuring equal access to learning and opportunities is increasingly important, as awarding gaps in assessment and degree classifications are sadly continually present for minority students2. LearnSci resources have helped address these gaps in a number of universities.
We partnered with Dr. Bhaven Patel at London Metropolitan University to address the awarding gaps of students on Chemical and Pharmaceutical Sciences courses. Interactive Smart Worksheets were introduced, providing students with the opportunity to practise key employment skills while receiving immediate feedback. This resulted in significant improvements in achievement, with a removal or significant reduction in awarding gaps for ethnic minority students.
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"An inclusive environment for learning anticipates the varied requirements of learners and aims to ensure that all students have equal access to educational opportunities."
'Chemistry courses must ensure that all students are offered learning and assessment opportunities that are equally accessible to them.' QAA
This involves ensuring that all platforms, assessments and resources are accessible for students with differing individual requirements. Learners using screen readers, or those who can’t access laboratories, for example, should be equally supported in their skill development.
At LearnSci we are continuously improving the accessibility of our resources, ensuring all students can benefit. LabSims and Smart Worksheets enable students who may otherwise struggle to engage with practical sessions. Using our resources pre-sessionally prepares students for what happens in the lab, so they are aware of techniques and equipment. The lab becomes less overwhelming and students feel more comfortable and confident.
2. Course content, structure and delivery
Concept and skill development
The QAA Statement describes the main aims of a chemistry degree. These aims often highlight the need to provide students with (a) knowledge and understanding of key concepts, and (b) practical skill development. Teaching strategies should be student-centred and utilise a range of delivery methods as appropriate.
LearnSci resources enable key concept knowledge and skill development, supporting students’ learning in both practice and theory, with a range of teaching methods. LabSims encourage exploration of techniques and challenges, from safe working practices to analytical instrumentation and data manipulation, improving students’ skills through their own practice. Smart Worksheets enable students to develop data analysis and maths skills, with unlimited datasets and instant, useful feedback.
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‘It is strongly encouraged that assessments make full use of a range of formats that enables students of all backgrounds and characteristics to demonstrate their learning and develop to their fullest potential.’ QAA
Both Smart Worksheets and LabSims can be used to assess student skills and learning in an accessible and alternative way, with random datasets and autograding ensuring equal treatment.
3. Employability, enterprise and entrepreneurship
This doesn't just mean subject-specific knowledge and skills, but professional and soft skills too. We can help with this; our resources encourage the development of skills that are sought after by employers, many of which are specifically highlighted by the QAA.
Problem solving is an important skill. The QAA states that courses should ‘develop in students the confidence and capability to solve unfamiliar problems’. LabSims and Smart Worksheets encourage students to explore and solve problems, allowing multiple opportunities to practise. Students can tackle problems of increasing complexity, applying methodology and carrying out calculations.
By encouraging exploration and practise, our resources help students develop planning and investigative skills, also highlighted by the QAA. Over a dozen of our LabSims across bioscience and chemistry focus on the design and planning of experiments, from ecology fieldwork to designing cloning and expression plasmids.
4. Education for sustainable development
This relates to the UN’s sustainable development goals, which were adopted in 2015 and include quality education, responsible consumption and climate action, among others.
LearnSci resources can improve sustainability and reduce waste in labs. Using LabSims as pre-lab preparation reduces student breakages and waste while increasing the efficiency of the session, allowing more time for students to ask meaningful questions. Our resources encourage practice, allowing students to improve without wasting sterile and disposable lab plastic, which makes up at least 2% of global plastic waste. (3)
If you’re interested in how LearnSci resources can enhance your chemistry teaching and student experiences in line with the QAA Benchmark Statement, request a personalised demo tailored to your needs, and we’ll be in touch very soon.