© 1997 Rainer Glaser. All rights reserved.
The University of Missouri at Columbia, Chemistry 416, Organic Spectroscopy, FS97

Collaborative Learning
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 416 Group Projects to engage the students in collaborative learning and to train and develop their peer review skills.

You are requested to form groups of two or three students. Each group will carry out two projects and each group will be involved in the evaluation of these project through peer review by the other groups.

The results of projects #1 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 416 Project Page. The posted results of group projects #1 will be evaluated via peer review by other groups.

The results of projects #2 will be presented to the class in form of a lecture/discussion session. The presentations of the results of group projects #2 will be evaluated via peer review by the other groups.

Working in the group will provide you with a opportunity for more active learning, provides the framework for support and constructive criticism, and teaches you valuable lessons on group dynamics. You will have to focus on optimizing the group performance rather than focusing on yourself. There will only be one grade for all members of each group.

Organizing Your Group

This should be no problem at all for most of you. Chemistry 416 is usually taken by second year chemistry graduate students. Yet, Chemistry 416 usually also attracts advanced undergraduate students and some graduate students from other departments (biochemistry, geology, engineering). 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 416 will be posted on the Chemistry 416 Course Page. This list will contain the electronic mail addresses and the majors of the students. Students with their own home pages are strongly 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, September 9. Send an e-mail message to the instructor that contains the name of the group and lists all of its members and their email addresses. Note that this date is quite some time before the first test and you can prepare in groups.

Further Information

Group Projects are being carried out in Chemistry 416 for the first time in the present fashion. 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 group projects. Let us know what works and what does not work. The Chemistry 416 Group Projects will be monitored by professional educators and your comments on any aspects of "Collaborative Learning in Chemical Learning Communities" will be valuable. All materials associated with this project will be used in thesis research in the Department of Education. Thank you for you cooperation.

Absolument mon ami, l'excellence est une habitude.