SIUE: Chemistry Department: Susan D. Wiediger's homepage

Susan D. Wiediger: Research Interests
Pattern Languages & Safety Instruction
Andrew Ribbing Poster at Probst

Pattern languages are an idea developed by Christopher Alexander in the field of architecture. Rather than collecting a scrapbook of ideas and plans that fit in various houses (or classes, etc.) and using trial-and-error or accumulated experience to guess which will be the best fit for a given situation, a pattern focuses on abstracting the characteristics of a successful instantiation that are responsible for it being successful and then crystallizing those successful elements in a pattern. This means that a single pattern can both represent and generate thousands of different solutions that meet similar needs in different settings. In addition to the power of the pattern itself, the pattern language also reveals the relationships between patterns, so that better supported wholes can be built because the language helps identify the crucial sub-parts needed for a pattern's success.

While patterns have been known in architecture for decades and have found a strong following in computer science, they are only slowly emerging in other fields. I feel that patterns have the potential to assist in the educational reform that teachers at all levels are constantly involved in. My research interests lie in identifying existing patterns that have been revealed through research and locating additional patterns already in use in good instruction but not recognized as patterns. This is the beginning of formulating a language that will allow chemistry instructors to talk more easily about what is going on and what they would like to see in their classes and curricula.

Recent focus has been on safety instruction. While almost every chemistry instructor is involved in safety instruction, and chemists at all levels need to be aware of safety concerns, little investigation has been done on what types of safety instruction has been done... at least in academic settings. In industrial settings, the evaluation of safety programs is more regularly undertaken but may not be as well publicized. A paper describing some patterns in safety was published in The Chemical Educator in 2007. Small-scale projects have been done at SIUE to begin to explore evaluation of safety instruction.

Current/Past Projects
  • 2009-2010, Lisa Snyder: Evaluating the impact of type of training on effectiveness of laboratory safety inspections
  • 2007-2008, Andrew Ribbing: Baseline Study of Glassware Breakage in Nursing Chemistry Laboratories
Useful links

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by SIUE.
Published by: Susan D. Wiediger
Last update: 4 November 2009 by