Developing a project laboratory course in chemistry

Grainne Moran


During the redesign of the BSc degree structure at UNSW in 1998-1999, we set out to develop some third year chemistry courses which were not constrained by the conventional partitioning into ‘organic’, ‘inorganic’, ‘analytical’ and ‘physical’ chemistry designations. We also wished to provide all graduating students (in both three and four year degrees) with the opportunity to do project-based experimental work. Meanwhile, consultation with employer groups consistently highlighted team work, planning, organisational and communication skills as being highly desirable in graduates, but employers generally perceived science graduates to be deficient in some of these areas. We had previous experience of running problem-solving laboratories in an advanced analytical chemistry course and this came to serve as the pilot phase in the development of the new course. This paper describes the development of the project laboratory course in chemistry, its aims and outcomes, the feedback from students and how this influenced the further development of the course.

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