African Journal of Chemical Education

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Achieving the aims of school practical work with microchemistry

JD Bradley


“Chemistry is fundamentally an experimental subject…education in chemistry must have an ineluctable experimental component”. This quote from an IUPAC report reflects a core belief of all chemistry  educators. However we must define our aims for practical activities, and design and prepare for them in  the context of national curricula. All this is necessary whatever the scale (macro or micro) of equipment that might be employed. At the present time traditional macroscale equipment dominates the school scene and penetration of microscale use is slow. This dominance is not because there are no problems with the status quo; quite the opposite. Most schools have no equipment at all or, if they have some, never use it. This despite national curricula explicitly encouraging practical science activities. Based primarily upon the experiences of our group in South Africa, this paper addresses the following questions:
1. what are the aims of school practical work?
2. can microscale chemistry deliver as well as, or better than, macroscale?
3. why is practical work (macro or micro) problematic in schools?
4. can microchemistry ameliorate these problems?
5. could recognition of the concept of Zone of Feasible Innovation help us?
Microchemistry has so much to offer school chemistry, that answering these questions and acting accordingly should be a priority. [African Journal of Chemical Education—AJCE 6(1), January 2016]

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