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Learning in the laboratory: The dilemma of designing labs for first year students

Meagan Ladhams Zieba
The University of Western Australia
Introductory and Biological Chemistry is a first year course offered at the University of Western Australia (UWA) to students with a limited background in chemistry. The aim of the course is to give them some exposure to and experience with basic chemistry principles. One of the more important aspects of the course is the laboratory component. These compulsory labs are designed to complement the lecture course, and to consolidate the concepts that students are learning.

The design of a lab course raises many questions, including:

These questions and issues confront most laboratory demonstrators and coordinators.

Another factor that the lecturer and demonstrators in the Introductory and Biological Chemistry course have to consider is that the majority of our students have very little background in chemistry, meaning that the first introductory labs are very important. In 2001, the students were given four lectures before starting their lab classes. In past years, students have started their labs after only one lecture. Through discussion between the lecturer and demonstrators, it was suggested that the students start their lab course in 2002 with a very general 'introduction to the laboratory' type of exercise.

The dilemma: How do we provide students with a general laboratory introduction which is informative, useful and contributes to student learning, without being boring or uninteresting?

Author: Meagan Ladhams Zieba, Teaching Intern, Chemistry, The University of Western Australia

Presentation format: Dilemmas in teaching or teaching/learning research

Please cite as: Zieba, M. L. (2002). Learning in the laboratory: The dilemma of designing labs for first year students. In Focusing on the Student. Proceedings of the 11th Annual Teaching Learning Forum, 5-6 February 2002. Perth: Edith Cowan University. http://lsn.curtin.edu.au/tlf/tlf2002/abstracts/zieba-abs.html

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Created 4 Dec 2001. Last revision: 1 Feb 2002. HTML: Roger Atkinson [ rjatkinson@bigpond.com ]