• Dr Kate Nickson

Widening Participation as a Chemistry Educator

A year ago, I apprehensively said goodbye to my career as a classroom teacher and Head of Chemistry to become a Chemistry Tutor. However, over the last year I have redefined my role from Chemistry Tutor to Chemistry Educator. Semantics you might say, but to me it is more than that; as a tutor I can help students whose families are in the fortunate position of being able to seek that individual support to help their children achieve their dreams. Whereas as a Chemistry Educator I can do more than that.

One of the joys of the last year has been the widening participation work that I have become involved in through The Profs (Professional Private Tutors). Widening participation is a term used to describe work undertaken to encourage students from currently under-represented groups to apply to and succeed in higher education.

My involvement in widening participation work began with tutoring an A Level student with an offer for the University of Cambridge. Their tuition was funded by the college who made the offer. What a fantastic idea to help ensure that under-represented students make their offers and ensure they have the academic foundations to make a successful start to their courses. My student went on to achieve 3 A* grades in his A Levels and will soon be off to Cambridge. Success!

As lock down began, I was employed as Course Creation Lead for the University of Cambridge HE+ Programme. The HE+ Programme is a collaboration between the University of Cambridge and state schools / colleges across the UK, which supports about 4000 highly-able students from under-represented areas and backgrounds each year. My role was to put together a series of lessons, with accompanying resources to lead students through the process of creating an academic poster and abstract on the theme of “Uncertainty”. I also created the judging criteria for the national competition.

Over the summer I collaborated in putting together and delivering an online “University Preparedness” course for The Access Project. The Access Project works with bright students from disadvantaged backgrounds helping them gain access to top universities. The course included a series of three core sessions and three electives. My electives included a “Maths Survival Kit” for students who might need to brush up their Maths skills in preparation for their university courses. This involved an introductory webinar and a series of five videos with accompanying worksheets for them to work through independently at their own pace. You can find the videos on my YouTube channel with the accompanying resources. I also put together an interactive session for Science students to help prepare them for their University Science courses. This involved use of break out rooms to address some estimation problems such as, how many marbles could you fit in a bath?

As I head into my second year as a Chemistry Educator, I look forward to the new challenges that lie ahead. I am really excited about my online small group IGCSE Chemistry classes for home educated students, which I have recently launched as well as my A Level Masterclasses.

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