How to impart tacit knowledge: “Blending Chess and Chemistry”

Simon Bedford, Jon Mason


Retrosynthesis has been likened to the game of chess. There are relatively simple rules to learn, but only through experience and practice can a learner acquire the tacit knowledge required for mastery of the subject. This makes it a challenging topic to teach effectively to a large and diverse cohort of learners. Lectures are a good way of transmitting knowledge, but do not provide the engagement and training that is essential in developing a deep understanding of retrosynthesis. Therefore, students tend to struggle to achieve success in this topic. This project aimed to alleviate this problem by producing online learning resources to be combined with traditional face-to-face teaching methods to develop a blended learning approach. These resources included animated videos, quizzes, worked examples and other interactive learning materials. Analysis of examination results and learner feedback showed that the supplementary resources not only improved student performance and understanding, but also provided a more satisfactory learning experience. External evaluation suggested that the learning package has significant potential and development should be continued. The package of learning resources can be viewed online at:

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New Directions in the Teaching of Physical Sciences

eISSN: 2051-3615