The Absolute Chemistry Research Group

The Absolute Chemistry Research Group (ACRG) is a cross-faculty research group involving researchers, educators and practitioners from the School of Education and the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences. The group is dedicated to practices of Outreach, Public Engagement and Widening Participation.

For more than ten years, the ACRG has led the design and delivery of impactful interventions at Liverpool John Moores University to support primary and secondary school-aged learners from deprived areas or groups. This work predominantly focuses on supporting individuals to engage with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects and access insights and aspirations for Higher Education.

Based on the pathways to impact, our values-driven work is guided by five central themes:

  • Enrichment: extending education beyond the core curriculum through relevance to our everyday lives and finding solutions to everyday problems e.g., pollution and climate change.
  • Enhancement: improvements of key attributes, knowledge, ability, skills, and potential of learners through experiencing scientific investigation in an inspiring environment and to use high quality laboratory facilities with advanced techniques.
  • Motivation: enthusing learners and engaging them in inspirational science to support goal-orientated behaviours.
  • Aspiration: instilling a strong desire for academic achievement and career goals in learners.
  • Careers: using role models in science to develop science identity in learners through a variety of pathways in science in several diverse roles.

Projects

The ACRG actively pursues external funding and collaboration to support its work, having secured over £500K in external funding since its inception, which has supported a range of programmes and initiatives, such as:

Faq Items

Chemistry for All

Chemistry for All 2 (Research into Practice)

Teacher Development - Primary Science (Inspiration Leads to Aspiration)

Sustainable School Chemists - Fostering Chemical Curiosity through a United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Challenge!

Unsung Heroes of Chemistry (Neurodiverse Learners): Chemistry Week

Fostering Chemical Curiosity

Post-16 Chemistry and Biology Outreach programme

Raising Attainment in Science

Research and wider engagement

Members of the ACRG undertake novel research in the under-studied areas of widening participation and outreach interventions, disseminating findings in reports, academic papers, and conference presentations. The ACRG have a particular interest in underrepresented groups in science education. Their research has a focus upon deprivation and providing a sense of belonging to individuals by fostering their science identity.

  • Led by Victoria Brennan, the ACRG are writing a contribution for a special edition of the Research in Science Education (RISE) journal. The special edition is entitled:Science Education: Fit for the future.
  • Andrea Mallaburn has an invited talk at Queen Mary University Chemistry Department regarding the ACRG research in the outreach research paradigm.
  • Andrea Mallaburn is working deeply and collaboratively with the Royal Society of Chemistry through her work as a grant reviewer, an advisor to their Initial Teacher Education policy team, and has written a Lesson Planning Module for the Effective Pedagogy Teacher Development course and a Mentoring Development course for Chemistry mentors.
  • Victoria Brennan is a member of a systematic literature review group within the Network for Emergent Socio-scientific Thinking (NESST) led by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC).
  • Rory McDonald is co-convenor for the BERA Special Interest Group 'STEAM Education Research' and is currently supporting the organisation of activities to promote research and transdisciplinary practice in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.

Publications

Current research topics of interest and publications related to this research include:

Simon, S., Mallaburn, A., & Seton, L. (2020). Enhancing school students' engagement in chemistry through a university-led enrichment programme. In S. Simon, & P. Ilka (Eds.), Engaging Learners with Chemistry: projects to stimulate interest and participation (pp. 192-224). Royal Society of Chemistry: RSC Publishing.

Mallaburn, A. (2019). Approval of Subject Knowledge Enhancement Courses (Royal Society of Chemistry). Royal Society of Chemistry.

Mallaburn, A., Seton, L., & Goodwin, M. (2018). Chemistry: The essential spark for engagement. Education in Science, 272, 26-27.

Seton, L., Mallaburn, A., & Goodwin, M. (2018). Research Focus: Nurturing socio-economically challenged learners' curiosity in chemistry. Education in Science, 272, 28-29

Brennan, V. K., Mallaburn, A., & Seton, L. (2018). Teachers’ perception of chemistry outreach work, especially in the context of children’s social demographyTEAN, 10(2), 3-14.

Doctoral Researchers

The Absolute Chemistry Research Group support several doctoral students (PhD and EdD) with their focused research on science education:

Aaisha Patel: Aaisha is a PGR rep, studying for a doctorate exploring the impact of ethnicity and socioeconomic status on motivation, achievement, and aspirations in science through the lens of Expectancy Value theory. This year she will be presenting her work at two international conferences and one national conference.

Chloe Moore: Chloe is studying for a doctorate by exploring science utility and motivation for Key Stage 4 learners within a school in the northwest of England.

Vicky Ellingham: Vicky is studying for a doctorate by exploring to what extent do student’s prior experience impact their science identity, within a school in the northwest of England.

Dave Gash: Dave is studying for a doctorate by exploring curriculum sequencing in Key Stage 3 Science education, with reference to the teaching of Energy.