Alan Smith

(CEA Chemical Educator 1996)

Alan Smith’s membership of the council of the Science Teachers Association of Victoria led to service on the Standing Committee for Chemistry for twenty years. He was an external examiner in Year 12 chemistry and a long-term leader in Chemistry syllabus development. Initially he taught at Northcote High School, and then at Carey Baptist Grammar. His approach was shaped by his research experience in industry and at Melbourne University, by tertiary tutoring (half-time at the Secondary Teachers College), by demonstrating to Science undergraduates, and by four overseas travelling scholarships, including one from the USA National Science Foundation to attend a summer school. Throughout his career Alan pursued his fascination for Chemistry, being passionate about arousing interest in general Chemistry, and especially its relevance to everyday life, through his teaching and his writing. He was a main contributing author of ten Chemistry books including Chemistry, Key to the Earth and Key Chemistry. In his teaching Alan looked to balance the group dynamics of the classroom with a one-on-one approach with individual students. Completely rejecting the use of fear of failure to motivate students, he took every opportunity to be positive and encouraging, constantly striving to make his teaching systematic and coordinated. Examination success was viewed as a limited goal in a general approach aimed at giving a student a stranglehold on the subject by teaching for understanding, with Chemistry presented as a coherent body of knowledge. At Carey, Alan was Head of Science and he held many senior positions, including Acting Headmaster. The Smiths have two daughters, one a secondary teacher and one a former nurse educator, and a son who is a federal politician. Alan's interests include family, family history, antiquarian books, bookbinding, history of medicine (for which he ran a course at the University of the Third Age), cricket and Australian Rules Football.