Previous research has identified areas of organic chemistry that learners find difficult and exploring the reasons why. This paper investigates teachers’ and learners’ perceptions of organic chemistry. Teachers’ understanding of their learners’ perspectives has a critical influence on developing meaningful learning.
Material and methods:
This study involved those teaching and learning organic chemistry at high school and university level. Surveys were used to gather data from four cohorts of participants. These included high school students (n=276) and teachers (n=79) from 73 high schools as well as university students (n=121) and lecturers (n=20) from 12 different universities in Ireland.
While many of the learners enjoyed organic chemistry and found it interesting, the majority found it difficult to learn and understand. The comparison of the learners’ attitudes and actual level of understanding in organic chemistry revealed some disparity. The teachers showed a relatively accurate perception of their learners’ experiences. However, there were different reasons why teachers and learners identified topics as easy or difficult.
The participants’ views are largely-dominated by external factors, many of which are beyond the control of teachers and learners. The critical role of teachers’ empathy and other intrinsic factors are identified and addressed to facilitate meaningful learning.