Monash chemist wins prestigious educator of the year award

A Monash chemist with a passion for chemistry in the classroom has been awarded the prestigious Royal Australian Chemical Institute (RACI) Educator of the Year Award.

The Award provides recognition to developing teachers from tutors to senior lecturers teaching in undergraduate or postgraduate university courses.

Founded in 1917 and granted a Royal Charter in 1932, the RACI is the professional body for the chemical sciences in Australia. It acts both as the qualifying body in Australia for professional chemists, and as a learned society promoting the science and practice of chemistry.

Dr Thompson is a senior lecturer and Associate Dean of Education in the Faculty of Science at Monash University. He has just recently been promoted to the position of Associate Professor, effective 1 January, 2019.

“I am honoured to be receiving the RACI Educator of the Year Award,” Dr Thompson said.

Dr Thompson’s research focus is on the chemistry classroom.

In 2013 he overhauled the first-year undergraduate chemistry course which immediately doubled the number of students who proceeded to study chemistry in their second year, and many of whom subsequently went on to complete chemistry majors.

“The key was higher engagement in place of more lectures,” Dr Thompson explains.

“The overhaul plan implemented demonstrations and in-class activities to make classes more interactive and exciting,” he said.

“My dream now is to make the study of chemistry accessible to deaf students."

“Without a comprehensive vocabulary of chemistry terms in AUSLAN, deaf students fall away from the subject in secondary school.”

With the aid of the Australian Deaf Community, Dr Thompson is working to address this deficiency.

Dr Thompson was the Chair of the RACI Chemical Education Division in 2015-16. Since 2016 he has been the Chair of the RACI VIC Chemical Education Group, and continues to share his passion for and expertise in chemistry education with the community.

Dr Thompson’s research lies in the field of Chemistry Education, with a focus on areas such as inquiry-based and problem-based learning, representations in chemistry, active learning and alternative learning strategies in chemistry, transferable skill development, student attitudes, motivation and self-efficacy for learning in science.

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