These resources have been reviewed and selected by STEM Learning’s team of education specialists for factual accuracy and relevance to teaching STEM subjects in UK schools.

CPD taster - Chemistry for non-specialists

This is a CPD taster created to give teachers a better understanding of what to expect when joining one of our secondary science courses. Below you will find a video and a task for you to do in your own time. Once you have done the activity, book on to Chemistry for non-specialists (NY243).

Are you teaching chemistry, but do not have a chemistry background? Are you wanting to progress your students’ understanding of the subject, but are not sure about how best to teach chemistry topics?

In this video Louise Herbert, professional development lead for chemistry, discusses how subject knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge are both crucial ingredients in developing your teaching and your students’ learning.


Gaining an understanding of your students' prior knowledge is key to enabling you to identify any misconceptions they have about the topic you are about to undertake. There are a range of approaches you can take to elicit misconceptions. In this example, which you could use in the classroom, we present a scenario with a question to get you thinking.

Man's hand filling up a car with fuel. Source: Pexels

A scientist measured the mass of fuel they put in their car and then used the whole tank whilst driving over a week. If they could collect the exhaust gases given off would the mass of the gases be:

  • Lower than the mass of the fuel they put in?
  • The same as the mass of the fuel?
  • Greater than the mass of the fuel?

Share your response on the poll and take a look at other responses. Then, have a go at these follow on questions.

  1. Answer the question and then try to explain why you came to your conclusion; draw a diagram and / or use equations to illustrate your answer.
  2. Consider how you would explain the answer to students to address any misconceptions they may have on the subject. What may they have come across that could lead them to an incorrect answer?

Next steps

In the summary video, Louise explains how you can approach this type of activity and also the importance of conveying to students 'how science works'.

Book your place on Chemistry for non-specialists (NY243).

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