Marietjie Potgieter

Prof M Potgieter

Tel:      +27 (0)12 420-3095 / 2512
Email[email protected]
Office:  NS1, Room 3-11

Position: Emeritus Professor
Academic qualification: PhD (University of Illinois, USA).

NRF Rating: C1 (2021 - 2026)


Research focus

The primary focus of my research is effective teaching of chemistry at tertiary level. As one of the basic sciences, chemistry underpins all of the natural and agricultural sciences, health sciences and engineering. South Africa faces serious challenges in the teaching and learning of chemistry because of poor preparation of students at secondary level.  My research contributes towards the national effort to deliver more and better qualified graduates in these fields.

Current Research Interests

  • Systems thinking in chemistry education (STICE): I am a steering member of an international team working on an IUPAC funded project to promote STICE and develop resources to facilitate uptake of ST in undergraduate education. I also collaborate with colleagues in the chemistry department to develop teaching interventions for the introduction of systems thinking in first-year organic chemistry.
  • Effective instruction in foundation chemistry: Students in academic development programmes are poorly prepared for tertiary studies and are therefore especially vulnerable. This project investigates barriers to the learning and understanding of abstract concepts, such as emission spectroscopy, the design of laboratory activities that manage the cognitive load associated with learning, and the difficulties introduced by technical and non-technical language used for instruction.
  • Teaching and learning in large first-year lecture groups: Blended learning opportunities must be designed to cater for the needs of students with a diverse range of academic abilities and competencies. This project seeks to identify and describe optimal blends of virtual and face-to-face modalities to cater using qualitative and quantitative methodologies (including learning analytics).
  • Self-regulated learning: The ability to monitor and regulate your own learning is key to academic success. My research focuses on effective learning strategies for first-year chemistry and biology, both in a blended and fully online modality. The findings of this research inform instructional design and academic advising.
Please visit our Tertiary Chemistry Education research group website.


National HELTASA commendation award for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (2011)
Chemical Education medal of the South African Chemical Institute (2008)
RC Fuson merit award for research in organic chemistry (University of Illinois, 1983)
International Fellowship of AAUW (American Association of University Women) (1981)


View all publications here: Google Scholar

Selected Journal articles

Bette Davidowitz and Marietjie Potgieter, Use of the Rasch measurement model to explore the relationship between content knowledge and topic-specific pedagogical content knowledge for organic chemistry, Int J Sci Educ, 2016, 38 (9), 1483 - 1503. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2016.1196843.

Kgadi Mathabathe and Marietjie Potgieter, Manifestations of Metacognitive Activity during the Collaborative Planning of Chemistry Practical Investigations, Int J Sci Educ, 2017, 39(11), 1465-1484. DOI: 10.1080/09500693.2017.1336808.

Angelique Kritzinger, Juan-Claude Lemmens and Marietjie Potgieter, Learning strategies for first year biology: Towards moving the ‘Murky Middle’, CBE-Life Sciences Education, 2018, 17:ar42, 1-13. DOI: 10.1187/cbe.17-10-0211.

Marietjie Potgieter, Lynne Pilcher, Rethabile Tekane, Ina Louw and Lizelle Fletcher, Lessons learnt from teaching and learning during disruptions, in Research and Practice in Chemistry Education, Advances from the 25th IUPAC International Conference on Chemistry Education 2018, M. Schultz et al. (Eds.), Springer, 2019, p89 - 107, DOI 10.1007/978-981-13-6998-8.

Christine Mundy and Marietjie Potgieter, Refining Process-oriented Guided Inquiry Learning for Chemistry Students in an Academic Development Programme, African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education, 2019, 23(2), 145 - 156, DOI: 10.1080/18117295.2019.1622223.

Rethabile Tekane, Lynne A. Pilcher and Marietjie Potgieter, Blended learning in a second year organic chemistry class: students’ perceptions and preferences of the learning support, Chem Educ Res Pract, 2020, 21(1), 24 – 36. DOI: 10.1039/c9rp00099b.

Christine Mundy and Marietjie Potgieter, Hands-On Spectroscopy: Inside and Outside the First-Year Laboratory, J Chem Educ, 2020, 97(6), 1549-1555. DOI: 10.1021/acs.jchemed.9b01050.

Rethabile Tekane and Marietjie Potgieter, Insights from training a blind student in biological sciences, South African Journal of Science, 2021, in press.

Gledhill, Irvy; Okeke, Francisca; Ouedraogo, Marie Francoise; Potgieter, Maria, The Gender Gap among scientists in Africa, Pure and Applied Chemistry, 2021,

Selected Conference proceedings

Marietjie Potgieter, “Chemistry – the long walk to agency”, Plenary lecture at the Gordon Research Conference on Chemistry Education Research and Practice, Lewiston, Maine, June 2015.

Marietjie Potgieter, Lessons learnt from teaching and learning during disruptions, Plenary lecture at the International Conference on Chemistry Education, Sydney, Australia, July 2018.

Marietjie Potgieter, Enhancing student success in tertiary mathematics: the multiple dimensions of institutional responsiveness, keynote address at the Siyaphumelela conference, Sandton, June 2019.

Marietjie Potgieter, Chemistry Education and Global Development: Challenges and Way Forward, Opening plenary address at the joint 4th African Conference on Research in Chemistry Education (ACRICE) and 42nd Annual International Conference of the Nigerian Chemical Society (Eko 2019), Lagos, Nigeria, September 2019.



Universities of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Witwatersrand. IUPAC Joint research project on Gender gap in Mathematical and Natural Sciences.


Chair elect of the IUPAC Committee on Chemistry Education (2022 onwards)

Member of steering group for IUPAC project 2020-014-3-050: Systems Thinking in Chemistry for Sustainability: Toward 2030 and Beyond (STCS 2030+).

ICSU project on Gender gap in Science (2017 – 2019): IUPAC representative for South Africa.


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