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The Chemical Educator

ISSN: 1430-4171 (electronic version)

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Abstract Volume 12 Issue 6 (2007) pp 396-398

A Guided-Inquiry Approach to the General Chemistry Laboratory

Matt J. Yousefzadeh, Elizabeth M. Martin, and Amy L. Rogers*

Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, College of Charleston, 66 George Street, South Carolina 29424,
Received April 17, 2007. Accepted July 31, 2007.

Published online: 1 November 2007

Abstract. Guided inquiry-based learning forces students to invest in problem solving. The general chemistry laboratory is a perfect medium to introduce guided-inquiry learning. It encourages students to engage in experimental design, to formulate independent hypothesis, and discover the world around them as a problem solver. We have introduced a guided-inquiry laboratory practical into our undergraduate general chemistry laboratory course for science majors. Our practical begins with a storyline of a crime. This crime has one victim and three suspects, all of which are found with unknown white powders. Students are asked to identify the most likely guilty party as well as characterize the unknown white powders using techniques and skills learned in the laboratory. Experimental procedures include solubility analysis, density determination, observing a melting point, and measuring conductivity. Based on experimental data, students are able to compare the samples to determine the guilty party as well as to compare their data to known values to help conclude the identity of the unknown pure white powder.

Key Words: Laboratories and Demonstrations; general chemistry; characterization of compounds; guided-inquiry; inquiry

(*) Corresponding author. (E-mail:

Article in PDF format (62 KB) HTML format

Supporting Materials:

The supporting materialscontain instructions about how students are required to set-up their laboratory notebook for this general chemistry laboratory course, specific instructions for each exercise of Project 1 as well as the description of the crime scene scenario for the student problem of Project 1, and typical student results for the student problem of Project 1 (3.3 MB).

Issue date: December 1, 2007

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