© 1999,2000 Rainer Glaser.
The University of Missouri at Columbia, Chemistry 212, Organic Chemistry II, WS00

Collaborative Learning
and Peer Review
in Chemical Learning Communities

The Utopian Goal: Teaching to Enable Autodidactic Behavior

About Learning in Customary Educational Settings: Not only do individuals learn at vastly different speeds and in different ways, but man seems capable of astonishing feats of rapid learning when the attendant circumstances are favourable. It seems that, in customary educational settings, one habitually uses only a tiny fraction of one's learning capacities.

Complexities of Human Learning: Educators are therefore becoming increasingly concerned with these concomitant learnings. They are aware that the long-term significance of the arithmetical skill that the student consciously learns may be nugatory compared with the importance of what he learns about himself as a learner, about his capacities and limits, about his relationship with his teacher, about power and authority, about his relationships with his fellow students, about equality, collaboration, competition, and friendship.

Scope of the Collaborative Projects

Having recognized the complexities of learning, it is the purpose of the Chemistry 212 Group Projects to engage the students in collaborative learning and to train and develop their ability to work with peers and their peer review skills.

Groups will consist of 4-6 students. Each group will carry out one project. It might be best if the members of a group also are enrolled in the same lab section and, better yet, work in close proximity in the lab. The group activities should not be limited to the group project.

The results of the project will be submitted to the instructor in form of an electronic report and, upon approval, this report will be hyperlinked and posted on the Chemistry 212 Project Page. All projects will be evaluated via a guided peer review by five other groups.

Working on the projects, the oral interaction with your peers and the feedback obtained through peer review, all of these mechanisms will provide you with a opportunity for more active learning, will provide the framework for support and constructive criticism, and will teach you valuable lessons on group dynamics. You will have to focus on the peer group rather than your internal standards alone. Also, there will be only one grade for all members of each group.

Organizing Your Group

There are some obvious ways to form groups. Some of you might know each other from courses previously taken together, from living in the same dorm, engaging in the same sports, you might know each other from Greek Life, and so forth. Others might be new to Columbia and MU and might not know anybody in this course as yet. In either case, to find other students to create your groups just approach other students and ask whether they might be interested in joining you.

A list with the names of the students in Chemistry 212 will be posted on the Chemistry 212 Course Page. This list will contain the electronic mail addresses of the students. It is planned to link student portraits to this list as well. Students with their own home pages are encouraged to submit the URLs of their home pages to the instructor. Links will be established between the posted class list and the individual home pages. You can use this list to see whether you might find students with common interests to join your group.

Practical aspects (where does (s)he live, what times is (s)he available, ...) are as important as personal matters (do you think you can get along with this student ...) and your estimate of his/her ability and motivation (is this student likely to contribute to the group ...).

Relevant Dates and Deadlines

Formation of Groups. Friday, January 28, 2000. This is the Friday of the first lab week. Send an email note to the instructor that contains the name of the group (be creative, come up with some interesting group names) and lists all of its members and their email addresses. This deadline is two weeks before the first test. It is hoped that you will make use of the groups in your preparation for the tests!

Further Information

Collaborative Projects are new to Chemistry 212. Your input is crucial to us. Please, be as open and frank as possible when commenting on any aspect of the design, planning, and execution of the Collaborative Projects. Let us know what works and what does not work. The Chemistry 212 Collaborative Projects will be monitored by professional educators and your comments on any aspects of "Collaborative Learning and Peer Review in Chemical Learning Communities" will be valuable. All materials associated with this project will be used in forthcoming lectures and publications by the instructional team. Thank you for you cooperation.

Absolument mon ami, l'excellence est une habitude.