In this method, students, working in groups undertake a task involving a series of activities. The outcomes for the various activities are interrelated and the group must determine their interdependences and use these to solve the assigned task. The individual activities (chemical experiments, consulting literature resources, etc.) have different functions which together provide an overview of the whole problem. The approach therefore seeks to extend the learning associated with laboratory activities. One of the main aims of this method is to help students to develop an independent approach to inquiry and ‘learning by doing’. This approach to teaching is particularly successful in helping students to develop skills for organizing and summarizing information from a variety of sources.
The learning on stations approach requires students, working in small groups of 2-3 individuals, to perform a series tasks, moving from one working station to another, in an order which can either be prescribed by the lecturer, or decided by the students themselves. In addition to the normal laboratory requirements such as organization of work, providing assistance in solving problems, ensuring compliance with health and safety rules, directing tidying up of working stations by groups after they complete an experiment, and checking that tasks have been satisfactorily completed, the lecturer must also provide the requisite number of working stations with appropriate equipment, reagents, instructions for performing the experiments, sources of text and questions for students to answer.
The learning on stations method can have:
- a closed structure, carefully planned by the teacher, where shifting between work stations occurs on the teacher’s signal and each group is required to “visit” every work station;
- a semi-open structure, where students are required to visit only a limited number of work stations, for example five out of a possible eight and are free to decide for themselves when and how to switch between work stations;
- an open structure (unprecedented in the teaching of Chemistry) where students are completely free to choose which work stations and how many they need to visit to satisfactorily complete the assigned task.
Example of organization of work in a modular method (clockwise rotation)
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