A COOPERATIVE LEARNING EXPERIMENT IN A CHEMISTRY LABORATORY CLASSROOM
This work contemplates a cooperative learning experiment applied to the teaching-learning of competences and skills in a chemistry laboratory. Cooperative learning is a strategy that promotes collaboration and solidarity among students. It is non-competitive, non-individualist learning, e.g. a conventional method, but also a collaborator mechanism that intends to develop teamwork habits, ..
Objective. The objective was to promote student participation in the laboratory and demonstrate that, by setting up a cooperative learning strategy to do chemical practical sessions, students retain more, better understand knowledge and learn to make decisions when faced with a real practical problem.
Material and method:
This experiment is contemplated for year-1 Industrial Engineering students in the Chemistry subject. Of all the students who attended practical laboratory sessions, 42 were randomly selected for this experiment. The rest continued doing practical sessions by the conventional method (their teacher briefly explained the content of this experiment. Students formed pairs and followed a practices outline).
The 42 students were divided into two groups of 21 students. In each group, seven work teams were formed with three students each, who had to do practical sessions with cooperative learning .
Work was divided into two parts:
- Part one: students attended laboratory sessions. The cooperative method was followed with the group with 42 students and the conventional method with the rest.
- Part two (15 days later): a written test was done (short questions and numerical calculations) about the contents of this practical session to verify the effectiveness of the traditional and cooperative methods used.
The whole process was supervised by the teacher at all times.
The steps to follow (briefly) with the group of students during the cooperative-type practical session were:
- Hand out to all three members of each team an independent part of the practical session outline for them to: a) prepare solutions from a solid solute; b) prepare solutions from a liquid solute; and c) titrate solutions . A time was set for comprehensive reading.
- Meeting with experts.
- Meeting with the initial group for each team member to transmit knowledge.
- Do the practical session.
Results and conclusions:
From the final written test, the participants who took part in the cooperative learning experiment obtained a mean score of 7.2/10, compared to one of 4.5/10 obtained by the students who did practical sessions by the traditional method. This confirms that cooperative work facilitated their comprehension and withholding of the knowledge obtained during the laboratory practical session.
A good work climate was noted which promoted the interaction and development of social skills. Cooperative learning also proved beneficial as students felt less embarrassed when asking their classmates questions than their teacher.
 Rué, J. El trabajo cooperativo, 1994. Guía para la organización y funcionamiento en centros educativos. Ed. Praxis, Barcelona.
 Almajano Pablos, M.P. y Domingo Peña, J. 2001. Una experiencia de aprendizaje cooperativo en laboratorios de química. Primera Jornada sobre Trabajo cooperativo. Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.
 Petrucci, R. y Harwood, W. 2003. Química General. 8ª Edición. Madrid: Prentice Hall.