News

Success from failure


16 May 2013

Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman: "I want my students to be actively engaged in class, instead of sitting back passively and listening to a lecture."
Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman: "I want my students to be actively engaged in class, instead of sitting back passively and listening to a lecture."

An unlikely source of inspiration ignited a love of chemistry in Associate Professor Adam Bridgeman. During high school he was dropped from the top chemistry class to the second top. This spurred him on to do better.

"I had a teacher who didn't teach chemistry in a way that was engaging, and as a result I lost interest in the subject," Adam said.

"The next year I got dropped to Mr Pritchard's class. He made chemistry fun by using lots of experiments. He explained in a way that I understood by relating it back to how the world works. It became my best and favourite subject."

Almost three decades later Adam is using many of the same philosophies Mr Pritchard used to teach his first-year chemistry classes.

"I want my students to be actively engaged in class, instead of sitting back passively and listening to a lecture," Adam said.

"Chemistry can be quite hard because it's fairly abstract. By relating it back to the real world and using demonstrations, like chemical explosions and colour changes I can draw the students in and engage them.

"I know students can't concentrate for an hour, so I break my classes into blocks and I use different modes of teaching. It's effective because it gives students a chance to listen, practise right away and then understand the information.

"It can be a risk to move away from being a teacher, step back and talk less. But if you do this, you make the students do more. Ultimately, it is more enjoyable for them and me.

Another way Adam involves his students is by getting them to source good chemistry resources online. He terms this 'crowd-sourcing resources'.

"It's great for getting students involved, especially first years."

Adam has used what he has learned in his own lectures and classes to become an educational leader in his faculty and the wider University. He has been awarded the Outstanding Teaching Award from the Vice-Chancellor's Awards for Learning and Teaching for his commitment to helping his colleagues and his innovative approach to teaching.

"I enjoy research and it is very satisfying. But sometimes I find teaching can be even more satisfying than research because you get to have an immediate impact on thousands of students," Adam said.

"My most satisfying moments are when students come up to me and say, 'I thought I was going to hate chemistry but now I love it.'"