ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching & Learning of Chemistry | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 5 | p. 47 | Awards
Issue Date: January 29, 2007

ACS Award for Achievement in Research for the Teaching & Learning of Chemistry

Department: ACS News
Credit: Courtesy Of J. Dudley Herron
Credit: Courtesy Of J. Dudley Herron

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James Dudley Herron was never satisfied with just teaching chemistry. As his colleagues see him, Herron was the driving force behind the evolution of a generation of individuals who focus their attention on research pertaining to the teaching and learning of chemistry.

Today, Herron, 70, is emeritus professor of science education at Morehead State University in Morehead, Ky. Because of his efforts, many now credit him with making the fields of cognitive and educational psychology credible and available to the chemical education community.

Those who know him call him a teacher of teachers as well as a teacher of young people. His articles in the Journal of Chemical Education have inspired hundreds of college chemistry teachers to reexamine their teaching in light of how students appear to learn. As a high school teacher in the 1960s, Herron asked "Why do students find chemistry difficult?" and "What can we do to make chemistry sensible to them?"

Herron's answers to those questions led to the publication of what, many years later, colleagues think are two of the most influential papers ever published in the journal: "Piaget for Chemists: What 'Good' Students Can't Understand" (J. Chem. Educ. 1975, 52, 146) and "Piaget in the Classroom: Guidelines for Application" (J. Chem. Educ. 1978, 55, 165).

He was the driving force in 1981 behind the establishment of the Division of Chemical Education at Purdue University. That division now has four faculty members and about 35 graduate students working toward M.S. or Ph.D. degrees in chemical education. At the first symposium on research in chemical education, given at the ACS national meeting in St. Louis in 1984, all but three of the papers presented were given by students of Herron's or individuals who had come under his tutelage.

Herron earned an A.B. in education from the University of Kentucky in 1958. He went on to receive an M.S. in science education from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1960 and a Ph.D. in science education from Florida State University, Tallahassee, in 1965. He also taught high school chemistry and physics and served as an education supervisor between 1958 and 1962 for Woodford County Schools, in Kentucky.

He started out as an assistant professor at Purdue University in 1965 and became an associate professor there in 1970 and a professor in 1977. He left Purdue to chair the department of physical sciences at Morehead State University between 1994 and 1996. During those hectic academic years, he took on a number of additional duties serving, for instance, as director of the National Science Foundation Summer Institute in Chemistry at Purdue from 1967 to 1974 and head of the department of curriculum and instruction at Purdue from 1989 to 1991.

Herron's awards include the 1971 Kappa Delta Pi Outstanding Teacher Award at Purdue and the Catalyst Award from the American Chemistry Council in 1983. In 1985, the Association for the Education of Teachers of Science deemed him an Outstanding Science Educator.

He was an ACS member until his retirement in 1996 and chaired the Division of Chemical Education Task Force on Chemical Education Research between 1991 and 1993.

The award address will be presented before the Division of Chemical Education.

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