What’s going on in Chem Lab?

I’m glad you asked! This semester the organic chemistry class is dividing into groups of four students or less and planning a lab. They will have 4 weeks to find an appropirate experiment, order chemicals, try it out, and write up a lab handout for the experiment. Then the class will perform each other’s experiments. The inspiration for this endeavor is a recent article in the Journal of Chemical Education, by Lorena Tribe & Kim Kostka. The article is entitled, “Peer-Developed and Peer-Led Labs in General Chemistry” 2007, 84(6), 1031-1034. The basic premise is that students were asked to divide into groups to research, develop, and prepare general chemistry experiments that would be performed by their peers. The first phase took 5 weeks to do. The result was that students took ownership of the laboratory process and they thought through the scientific method in a much deeper way that they would have if they would have shown up each week to follow the directions. It pushed a lot of buttons for me. “The students were present, more actively engaged, more enthusiastic, and very cooperative.” I had always envied my colleagues who do an individual synthesis project as a second semester organic chemistry laboratory project. I saw this article as describing a similar engagement of students’ creativity and originality that didn’t involve running 27 simultaneous experiments. This approach seems manageable with a great potential for satisfaction.

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