In 1956, Benjamin Bloom published his classification of how we learn. There are three fundamental themes that he used - cognitive, psychomotor and affective. They may be used as descriptors independently or in combination with each other. For instance, learning to control the drip rate from a buret in a titration is a psychomotor skill; setting up a distillation apparatus is mostly psychomotor but partly cognitive, since you must understand what is happening in the distillation to get the pieces of glassware in the right order. A example of an affective skill might be learning how to work effectively within a group in the lab, because it relates to our emotions.
Bloom broke down the steps of learning into six levels. Since he published this concept, several people have refined the idea, or replaced it, but the basic approach is useful for my purpose here.
Knowledge: This is the recall of straightforward facts. Typically, this is how you would mostly learn when you began taking classes in chemistry. It surfaces repeatedly - for instance, at the beginning of inorganic chemistry, there is a lot to memorize about nomenclature.
Comprehension: The nomenclature gets a little easier when you relate every group of atoms to the central metal. Understanding the system allows you to build some comprehension. This is probably the starting point for most experimental work. In the lab, you are doing, watching and testing out ideas to see if they work. The answers build up knowledge (more facts to learn!) but join those facts together in sensible patterns. The learning is no longer by rote, because with understanding, you can work out an answer without having memorized it - much cheaper on mental resources!
Application: Once you have learned how to do a reflux, you have a tool for performing reactions. Learning how to run a column teaches the principles of separation. Getting to put a sample in the ir spectrometer is the first step towards being able to confirm the identity of a compound. This is really what the lab for Chem222 is all about. It presumes that some basics have been covered in General Chemistry (Chem101 & 102) - eg identification of equipment; how to handle chemicals; what to write in a notebook. In second year, the exact procedures are written in the manual for you to follow and different techniques are taught. You are expected to be able to explain how they have helped your experiment give you some results.
Analysis: This is the point which I hope you reach in writing a report for second year. You are able to describe what you have done. All the data is broken into manageable chunks and processed according to a logical pattern, for example by applying a formula or principle. The conclusions from each part add together to give a larger explanation for the whole experiment.
Success in Chem362 is totally dependent on this skill. You will be working with chemicals and reactions that you know very little about. However, each technique or procedure will likely have been seen in an earlier course. It is up to you to apply these correctly (previous category) as the instructions will not be given to the same level of detail as in Chem222. You will then be expected to conduct the full analysis of your product.
Synthesis: More challenging experiments in Chem362 will mimic the idea of ‘doing research’. This is to use general techniques that have been taught earlier and to apply them to a different experiment. Typically, the instructions will not be given, so you will be relying on your experience to generate them. Choosing the appropriate techniques for compound identification will be answering a lot of ‘what if?’ questions. Reading the (supplied) literature will help you decide which data must be collected and how it may be compared. Writing a report for Chem362 requires that you compare your data with what is already known - either by comparing it to that of the starting materials or with what has already been reported for your target compound (or something very similar). Not only do you need to find the data in the literature but also you are expected to understand how the original authors used that data in drawing their own conclusions.
Evaluation: This is the bridging level between third and fourth year labs. By the time you are performing experiments in Chem462, you will be competent at performing reactions and analyzing the products. The analysis and synthesis skills of Chem362 are expected, although they might be tested with more difficult problems. You can now assume that you have a valuable set of data that allows you to read the literature with a degree of scepticism. Not every paper published is accurate and you will be expected to read them a lot more critically than you would have done in an earlier course. This really emphasizes that you are not doing an experiment to verify a result that has been already established. Most of this transition in attitude appears when you are doing the pre-lab planning or in writing the report. The substance of the report (the discussion section) should reflect the evaluation of your data and that published in the literature. It is not just a comparison of numbers but an expression of your (justifiable) opinion on that data.