Laboratory teaching - American Chemical Society

latter are there of their own volition. Chemistry is an entirely new language for the majority of freshmen, and they are not interested in it as such...
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JOHN X A W Howard College, Birmingham, Alabama

NOT all the bromides in the chemistry laboratory are in


bottles. Some stand up in front on t,wolegs, pompous, wordy, bored, looking doxn a t helpless, equally bored freshmen, who are away from home for the first time, and quite bewildered. These t,eachers would be surprised if they could see what was in the freshmen's minds. At t,he outset i t must he recognized that few of the latter are there of their own volition. Chemistry is an entirely new language for the majority of freshmen, and they are not interested in it as such. They have all heard that it is a hard course, and would like to have avoided it. But all of them have some idealistic vision of themselves as doctor, dentist:'engineer, or pharmacist. Now they are just beginning to find out that it d l take a lot of hard work to reach their goalsymbols, problems, smells, instructions, and their be~vilderedminds set up a resistance. It does not take long for any bright freshman to learn that there is a slick way out of laboratory work. While the instructor is a t the other end of the room, safely hidden behind the bottle racks, he pumps the "grind" beside him. "What are you supposed to find here? What is the answer to this problem?" The ''grind" has studied i t all ont, and Bright Freshman mrit,es the data in his notebook. The paradox of the lah uotebook is that it may have all the right answers, while the freshman's head may have none. It is also quite possible t o get a fair grade a t the end of the year, and not have any idea of what it was really all about. Many attempts have been made to solve this difficult problem. More and better laboratory manuals and objective tests have flooded us; finer and more expensive laboratories have been built; more and more push-button methods to make it easier for the student, and still they "hate chemistry." For the one and perfect solution there has never been a substitute: "Mark Hopkins on one end of the log, and the student on the other." What then will put the plus in the teaching of chemistry laboratory? What will t,urn these indifferent freshmen into devoted chemists?

Without a doubt, the real teaching of chemistry takes place in the laboratory under a c~nsecrat~ed teacher. There is no place here for the intellectually arrogant, know-it-all, untouchable, high-and-mighty professor, mentally locked up in his ivory tower of research. The teacher must enter the lab as eager and open-minded as the humblest student. Remember, t,he discovery of methyl amine took place in a demonstration mistake, when the instructor was trying to make ammonia for his class. Putting the plus in chemistry teaching means putt,ing the "teacher" back in "teaching." I n the laboratory t,he instructor has a golden opportunity to help the student understand principles, acquire skills, learn how to protect himself, develop the scientific attitude and lore for his subject. By his actions and the way he explains things, the teacher tells the student that he is interested in what he is doing and likes the laboratory work himself. In addition, the instructor watches the reaction of the students, learning from their response what bores them and what makes their eyes sparkle withinterest. It is quite possible to "work the socks off a student," and make him love it. Perhaps the teacher observes t,hat. when he himself has more to give, more is received. S o teacher should go into the laboratory having prepared just the day's lesson. He should be so full of his subject that i t radiates from him, to the illumination of the students. God help t,he man who t,eaches merely to make a living! LABORATORY DISCIPLINE

The next thing necessary for a successful chemistry laboratory is strict discipline. A few rules should be laid down a t the beginning of each semester, and no exceptions made, unless in extreme cases. Here are a few examples: (1) Keep desk and equipment clean and in order. (2) Never carry chemicals from shelf t o desk. Go to the shelf with suitable vessel.,