An investigation of the design, implementation and evaluation of an online chemistry programme in the Irish secondary school

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Gallagher, Ryan
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University College Cork
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This study investigates the design, implementation and evaluation of an online chemistry programme in the Irish secondary school. At national and international level, the vast majority of research on online teaching and learning is third-level focussed. There is noteworthy literature on the benefits to learning and teaching based on pedagogies such as blended learning and the flipped classroom. These two pedagogies are investigated in this research project. This study involved converting the entire Leaving Certificate chemistry syllabus into a series of video lessons and accompanying resources, which were then uploaded onto a website ( Chemistry students and teachers were encouraged to use the resources on the website throughout a two-year period. The study employed a multi-method approach in order to maximise the robustness of the findings by triangulating data from different sources (questionnaires, semi-structured interviews and lesson observations). The study took place over two cycles. Cycle 1 took place in year 1 and involved a trialling of the resources on the website by collecting data from students and teachers who used the online resources. Cycle 2 took place in the second year and involved implementing the findings of cycle 1 as well as evaluating the effectiveness of the updated resources. The overall findings of this study suggest that blended learning is an effective pedagogy in teaching Leaving Certificate chemistry. However, it was also found that there are challenges in the implementation of blended learning such as financial costs, length of time producing high quality resources as well as up-skilling teachers. Students repeatedly indicated that video lessons by themselves were not efficient for learning. Self-confidence among students increased significantly once additional resources such as assistance with mathematical calculations and self-assessments resources were added to the original resources. It was found that teachers could see value in utilising blended learning but only if teacher autonomy is respected. Teachers reported that the use of blended teaching and learning enabled them to utilise more active-learning pedagogies in the classroom. Teachers were initially sceptical of the flipped classroom model but this view changed when schools closed due to Covid-19. Teachers reported that student learning had occurred to a much higher degree than anticipated and that their students were confident in making progress in their study of chemistry throughout the pandemic. Chemistry teachers noted they were not as stressed as colleagues teaching other subjects due to the online resources throughout lockdown and students stated they were more engaged with chemistry than other subjects. It is clear from the data analysis that online technology can play in important role in supporting the teaching of Leaving Certificate chemistry.
Blended learning , The flipped classroom , Online learning , Digital learning
Gallagher, R. M. 2022. An investigation of the design, implementation and evaluation of an online chemistry programme in the Irish secondary school. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.