University of Limerick
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Identification of the difficulties in teaching and learning of introductory organic chemistry in Ireland and the development of a second-level intervention programme to address these

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posted on 2022-10-06, 08:10 authored by Anne O'Dwyer
This project involved the effective implementation of Chemistry Education Research (CER) into classroom practice. The project was carried out in two cycles. Cycle One of the project involved two investigations: one at second-level and one at third-level. Cycle Two involved the development, implementation and evaluation of an intervention in the Irish second-level schools programme to address the issues identified in Cycle One. The difficulties of organic chemistry have been investigated and researched in many other countries. However, there has been no explicit research carried out investigating the difficulties experienced by novices learning organic chemistry in Ireland. This Action Research project involved an investigation of the difficulties experienced by those learning organic chemistry at second-level and at introductory third-level in Ireland. The second-level study involved the completion of questionnaires by chemistry teachers in 73 Second-Level schools and pupils in 35 second-level schools teaching Leaving Certificate Chemistry in Ireland. At third-level, questionnaires were completed by lecturers in 12 different third-level Irish institutions and to students in three different Institutions. These questionnaires provided an insight into the teaching and learning of organic chemistry. It was found that those teaching and learning organic chemistry at second-level and third-level experience many common topics as difficult: IUPAC nomenclature; functional groups; characteristics of organic compounds; reaction types; reaction mechanisms and practical work. Organic chemistry accounts for a substantial amount of the Leaving Certificate Chemistry syllabus (20%) and examination (25%). Using the findings from Cycle One and those from CER, Organic Chemistry in Action! was developed. This intervention programme is a unique evidence-based resource designed to facilitate the teaching and learning of organic chemistry. The teaching materials were developed by using specific design criteria, proven to be effective in previous innovative chemistry teaching programmes. The intervention materials were designed with specific reference to the current Irish Leaving Certificate Chemistry syllabus. The Organic Chemistry in Action! materials are adaptable and can be used with introductory third-level organic chemistry as well as the proposed new Leaving Certificate Chemistry syllabus. The Organic Chemistry in Action! programme was trialled with 87 sixth year chemistry pupils in six second-level schools. The effectiveness of the programme was evaluated using feedback from the participants (chemistry teachers and pupils) as well as comparisons with a Control Group of 121 pupils from nine different second-Level schools which investigated both attitudes and understanding. The results of this intervention programme have shown an improvement in the attitudes, interest and understanding of the participating pupils, even though it was implemented within the constraints of the current, often examination-focused Leaving Certificate programme. The Intervention Group outperformed the Control Group in several key areas despite evidence that the Control Group had a better background in science and mathematics. The results indicate that this inquiry-based approach, which also aimed to develop cognitive skills and to relate chemistry to real life contexts, was successful in addressing in part, some of the difficulties in teaching and learning organic chemistry at second-Level.


A new method for transforming data to normality with application to density estimation

National Research Foundation

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  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Childs, Peter

Second supervisor

Hanley, Noreen



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Department or School

  • Chemical Sciences

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