To be presented at: 15th BCCE, August 10, 1998, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Who is Watching? Developing a Clinical Chemistry Dilemma and Assessment Tool for Role-Playing in Analytical Chemistry
Paul T. Jackson and John P. Walters
St. Olaf College Chemistry Department
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057 USA

Contact: or

What is Role-Playing? Working Definition of Role-Playing:

Acting out deliberately exaggerated personality or cultural stereotypes for the teaching of others and experiential learning.

Role-Playing Group: A Company (Community)

The above figures are copyrighted to the American Chemical Society through a three-part publication: Walters, J.P. Anal. Chem. 1991, 63, 977A, 1077A, 1179A. Used by permission.

The role-playing experience is built around an understanding of a professional analytical chemist's porfolio.  We ask the students to accept that this construct and responsibilities are those of an analytical chemist and now learn analytical chemistry from within this definition.  In order to achieve this, we must divide responsibility, not labor.  Hence roles rotate and the manager is ultimately responsible for an experiement - the planning, implementation, adaptations, results, group communication, praise and criticism.  See the above Analytical Chemistry papers for additional information.  Consequently the bottom line can be summed up into two key sentences:
Good Grades Come from Good Results
Good Results Come from Good Management

Role-Playing Organization: Course Constructs

Analytical Chemistry - Junior level
Parallel Linked Group Activities
Instrumental Analysis - Senior level
Serial Linked Group Activities


Manager gets the Grade.  The Company gets the same grade as Manager.

Key Elements of Role-Playing Key Elements of Collaborative Learning Groups There is a direct link between what we consider as key elements in role-playing and those emphasized by Johnson, Johnson and Smith.  The only element not included in typical CLG keys that we emphasize is "Freedom within a mission".  We define a mission for our company.  We ask them to solve a problem using the following resources: the company role-players (no outsourcing), the company instrumentation, company computers, the library, common chemicals, company supplies (glassware, etc.).  Additionally, we model what others have done in the past to stimulate thought.  The companys become very creative in developing and implementing a plan to solve the problem.  Often this results in two unique experiences by the role-players: 1) they own their education - no one can take away their creative solution and understanding of it; and 2) roles cross-teach one another - that is they educate each other as to their roles impact on the problem and provide assistance to others in the group. 

Pedagogical Objectives for Dilemma
As we started down our road to creating a capstone dilemma for the role-playing experience we wanted it to come at the end of our department's instrumental analysis course and contain sufficient flexibility for it to last multiple weeks - a month would fit our January term.  Our objectives for the module follow:  top

Selection of a Chemical System
Our choice of chemical system got us started.  We wanted a system with the features listed below.  However, our friends in the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension brought to our attention some of the legal and ethical challenges to us as educators.  We do not want to send a message that "drugs are cool" or show our students "how to beat a GC-MS confirmatory test".  Thus, we decided not to pursue the illicit drugs but focus on a remarkable similar class of over-the-counter medications that have been abused - ephedrines.

Experimental Design

An Example of Role Responsibilities Within this Module
Ephedrine Analysis Protocols 
Chain of Custody Procedures 
Mgmt Reports on Method 
Operates GC-MS System 
SPE System Configuration 
pH Meter Operation 
GC-MS System Software 
Database Searching 
Data Telemetry & Analysis 
Derivatization Chemistry 
Internal Standards 
Specific Gravity Determination 

Experimental Data:  GC-MS Analysis of Ephedrines and Internal Standard Candidates
Propylchloroformate Aqueous Derivatization of Amines (Labeled left to right)
SPE: 1 mL C8 Empore Cartridge
Injection: 1 mL splitless (0.67 min), 220 °C
Column: Rtx-35, 30 m x 0.25 mm x 0.25 mm film
Oven: 50 °C @ 2 min; 70 °C/min to 130 °C; 8 °C/min to 250 °C; 250 °C @ 3 min
Solutes: BMPEA = b-methylphenethylamine
NBBA = N-butylbenzylamine
THIQ = 1,2,3,4-tetrahydroisoquinoline
(1R,2S)-(-)-Ephedrine Standard Curve
Propyl chloroformate derivative
Internal Standard: N-butylbenzylamine

Cost of Doing Business

Feedback and Observations Using Role-Playing  top

Professional Costs  top

Management and Role-Playing Resources  top

Summary and Acknowledgements
Role-Playing is one of many Cooperative Learning Constructs
Role-Playing is an Effective Means of Teaching Chemistry
Role-Playing Engages Both Student and Instructor
Role-Playing Carries Professional Costs
Camille & Henry Dreyfus Foundation
St. Olaf College
Dr. Larry Bowers, IUPUI
Ms. Betty Rogers, MNBCA
Mr. Glenn Hardin, MNBCA
The People that Help Make it Happen:
The Students of St. Olaf College

Last Modified:  14 August 1998