This page contains important information about the format of your lab. It has an introduction, list of job skills you should learn, what cooperative learning is about, team roles you will play and how to handle conflict. You can also jump to the Chem 100 or Chem 330 pages or my home page


Welcome to the cooperative chemistry lab! This experience may be different from any you have had before. Instead of performing one exercise a week, individually or in pairs, you will be part of a team in this lab. You will be helping each other solve problems, while developing critical thinking and communication skills that will serve you well in your future career. At the same time you may learn some chemistry, which will also enable you to be a better prepared and informed citizen.
This lab is also intended to be a more realistic example of how science is really done. You will not have a recipe for each experiment; instead, your team will devise your own experiments to test your own hypotheses, gather information and data, and draw conclusions and more questions for further work. You will keep a thorough and legal notebook, and present your work orally and in writing to your peers for evaluation. You will not be graded on how close you come to a "correct answer," but on how you plan your experiments, evaluate your data and present your work. The projects are not designed to coordinate with the class, but the material learned in both will be applicable to each. The more you participate and help your team, the more you will benefit and learn, which is what education is about. 
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What will I learn?

When businesses were asked what students need to learn in school, they wanted prospective employees to:
  1. Learn how to learn (it doesn't stop at graduation);
  2. learn listening and oral communication skills;
  3. develop competence in reading, writing and computation;
  4. be adaptable, displaying creative thinking and problem solving;
  5. have self-esteem, personal and career goals and motivation;
  6. have interpersonal and teamwork skills;
  7. and have organizational and leadership effectiveness.
(American Soc. for Training and Development & U.S. Dept. of Labor (1988))

Learning these skills is one of the main goals of this course, in addition to learning how matter behaves and reacts, and some lab skills. You will be given problems within a chemical context to be solved. At first you will probably feel frustration, and perhaps get discouraged, if you can't see how to solve the problem. Remember, "Being temporarily perplexed is a natural state of problem solving."

The time spent at the beginning when you seem to be floundering is in fact not time wasted. Research has shown this time is essential and is called "creative floundering." If you knew immediately how to solve a problem, it would not really be a problem, would it? That is why you are not alone in this class but part of a problem solving team. This approach is often called cooperative learning. 
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What is cooperative learning?

This is a style of learning that research has shown enables students to learn and understand more, to develop the skills required by careers, and to make work more enjoyable. To be successful it must have the following elements:

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What roles do team members assume?

You will be assigned a role for your team's first project, but then the roles will rotate for subsequent projects, so you have a chance to do them all. Usually, there will be a:

These roles may be redefined for each project, but you will have similar functions to perform. Remember though that regardless of your role, you must participate fully in the group's work.

Everyone should be occupied most of the time. The idea is not for one person to do the experiment, while the others stand around and "supervise" as in road construction crews! Some of you may be doing duplicate experiments, getting needed materials, information or taking data, or each member may be performing the experiment under a different set of conditions. You will all need to be involved in obtaining as much information as possible in the allotted time to be successful. 

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How do we handle conflict within the team?

Though teams must communicate and cooperate to function, it is inevitable that actions or words will cause a conflict at some point. When it does, you should try to:

Finally, you will be given the opportunity to practice your oral and written communication skills. You are required to take the major responsibility for writing and orally presenting at least one final report to pass the course. 
Modified from: Dr. Melanie Cooper, Chemistry Dept., Clemson University, Clemson SC 
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If you have questions or comments, write the:

  Author of this page: Terry Helser - helsertl@oneonta.edu
  Web Coordinator: Philip S. Bidwell - bidwelps@oneonta.edu
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  Last Modified on 7/14/2008

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