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What Can We Learn About Doing Content-Based Educational Research on Teaching and Learning from the 30-Year History of Research in Chemical Education?

By George Bodner

Purdue University

Published on


This talk is based on the assumption that one of the functions of the National Center for Learning & Teaching is to promote basic research on teaching and learning within the content domain of nanoscale science and engineering. In order to understand what this might involve, we will look at the field of chemical education research, past and future, to see how research in that field has evolved over a period of slightly more than 30 years.


George Bodner George Bodner is the Arthur E. Kelly Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Education, and Engineering at Purdue University. He began his academic career as a history/philosophy major at the institution now known as the University at Buffalo. He found, much to his amazement, that chemistry was fun, and changed his major under the mistaken impression that jobs were easier to find as a chemist. After a mediocre career as an undergraduate (B. S., 1969), he entered graduate school at Indiana University (Ph.D., 1972) where he apparently did well enough as a double major in inorganic and organic chemistry to gain an appointment as a visiting assistant professor at the University of Illinois (1972-1975). Two things became self-evident during his tenure at Illinois. He found that teaching was fun, and he realized that his research could best be described as searching for definitive answers to questions no one ever asked. When the time came to leave Illinois, he therefore took a job as two-thirds of the chemistry faculty at Stephens College where he lasted for two years (1975-1977), teaching general, organic, inorganic, and biochemistry. He moved to Purdue University in 1977 to take a position in something known as "chemical education." He is the author of more than 120 papers and 48 books or laboratory manuals. His interests include the development of materials to assist undergraduate instruction, research on how students learn, and the history and philosophy of science. Several years ago, he was selected to receive the Nyholm Medal from the Royal Society of Chemistry, the Pimentel Award in Chemical Education from the American Chemical Society, and the Distinguished Alumni Award from his alma mater, the University at Buffalo.

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Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  • George Bodner (2006), "What Can We Learn About Doing Content-Based Educational Research on Teaching and Learning from the 30-Year History of Research in Chemical Education?,"

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