Molecular modelling for pre-academic chemistry education: Opinions of experts, teachers and students on an initial curriculum unit sketch
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In science education, students should come to understand the nature of models and modelling. Students often have trouble understanding advanced features of modelling. It is not a trivial task to design learning materials resolving these learning difficulties. In this study we designed a curriculum unit sketch for learning molecular modelling for pre-academic chemistry education, a type of modelling which uses software tools to calculate molecular properties. We focused primarily on the process of modelling and used the scientific practice of malaria drug design as a context for learning. The design of the curriculum unit sketch was guided by five criteria: Scientific soundness & authenticity, Student engagement, Student knowledge base, Software usability, and Feasibility. Experts, a teacher and students were interviewed to assess to what extent the design criteria were fulfilled. All of the respondents considered the curriculum unit sketch a good basis for further design of teaching material. For each criterion, there was further room for improvement. For instance, the ‘Scientific soundness & authenticity’ criterion can be further improved by making parts of the sketch have a larger focus on drug resistance. Nevertheless, this study shows that a pre-academic molecular modelling curriculum unit can potentially be designed to be both usable in class and engaging to students.