The University of Southampton
University life

Bringing chemistry to life

Professor David Read, Professorial Fellow in Chemical Education and Head of Education in Chemistry

Published: 
31 August 2017

It’s a well-known fact that students here at Southampton are taught and supervised throughout their education by researchers and academics who are at the forefront of their field.

This expertise extends from the topics our academics teach, to the methods they use to teach them.

Professor David Read, Professorial Fellow in Chemical Education and Head of Education in Chemistry, is a leader in innovative teaching who harnesses the power of technology to inspire the minds of the next generation. His recent appointment as National Teaching Fellow demonstrates the impact that his teaching methods have had on not only his students, but the Higher Education community on an international scale.

“I bring chemistry to life through imaginative use of technology, empowering students to take responsibility and to set high expectations. I am motivated to share my work with others, helping them learn from my experiences as I disseminate innovative practice,” says David. “My fundamental goal is to inspire students to seek deep understanding of the subject rather than relying on the rote-learning that blighted my own studies.”

I bring chemistry to life through imaginative use of technology, empowering students to take responsibility and to set high expectations.

Professor David Read - Professorial Fellow in Chemical Education and Head of Education in Chemistry

Inspiring active participation

David’s experiences as a chemistry teacher prior to his arrival at Southampton laid the foundations for his pioneering work. He observed that traditional university lectures often involved a more passive approach, with little or no interaction from the students – subdued in comparison to the dynamic approached used in classrooms.

Since his first role as School Teacher Fellow in 2007, David has introduced a number of innovative teaching methods and theories which have since been adopted across the University and further afield across the UK. The use of ‘clickers’ in his lectures has seen him become a national leader in the use of this technology in a teaching environment, and this technology alone has enhanced communication and engagement within his student community.

‘Flipped Teaching’ is also a method which David has pioneered at Southampton. Through releasing short lecture videos prior to the timetabled lecture, he opened up extra time for extended interaction and conversation which enhances the learning experience.

Self-assessment – another exercise favoured by David – enables students to identify their own strengths and weaknesses which can build confidence and a more concrete understanding, and a ‘Skills Portfolio’ allows lab work to be reflected in written lab reports, adding extra value to all work carried out on the course.

In-lab innovations

It is his innovative approach to ‘in-lab’ education that allows David to stand out from the crowd. Along with his PhD students, he is leading a project to develop the world’s first Laboratory Response System, which he names ‘Labdog.’ This technology will allow students to answer conceptual questions as they carry out their practical work, ensuring that students get more out of their time in their lab than just following a pre-organised process.

Using this technology, staff are able to see and respond to students’ questions and answers, which ensures they get instant, personalised feedback, and has changed the way students in their Foundation Year at Southampton carry out practical tasks.

David explains the benefits of his project: “Labdog represents an imaginative, cutting edge resource which supports a diverse cohort of students in maximising learning from practical work, synthesising pedagogic research and personal experience to tackle a universal problem in science education,” he says.  “I look forward to sharing this innovation and its potential adaptations with the wider Higher Education teaching community.”

This innovation and passion has solidified David’s status as a leader in teaching and learning, and he is keen to impart his experiences and knowledge to ensure this outlook is taken on by colleagues far and wide, in other subject areas and across the globe.

Watch the two and a half minute video below to find out more about what Labdog is, and how it is improving teaching and education.

A reputation of excellence

David is no stranger to receiving awards for his outstanding attitude to teaching. In 2008 he received the Vice-Chancellor’s Teaching Award, and the Royal Society of Chemistry’s (RSC) Higher Education Teaching Award in 2010, when his innovative use of video was also recognised by the Association of Learning Technology. His students recognised his contributions too when he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award: Teaching and Learning’ within the faculty.

On his achievements, Vice-President (Education) Professor Alex Neill says: “David has had a huge impact on learning and teaching at Southampton. He has led by example in promoting high quality teaching, through his leadership in developing innovative practice and, also in his tireless efforts to support colleagues in their own educational endeavours.”

Though his focus is on educating the next generation, he is continually teaching himself new ways to inspire and motivate; he places great emphasis on how much he learns from his students, in the same way they learn from him.

Speaking about his own inspiration, David added:  “Every paper I read, every conference I attend, every student I interact with teaches me something that I can take on board and incorporate in my practice.  I have taken what I have learned and shared it widely. 

“I greatly value the opportunity to impact positively on the next generation of teaching-focused academics and hope to continue this work for many years to come.”

Every paper I read, every conference I attend, every student I interact with teaches me something that I can take on board and incorporate in my practice.

Professor David Read - Professorial Fellow in Chemical Education and Head of Education in Chemistry

Related Staff Member

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×