Changing the landscape of the science laboratory: A move to inquiry-based learning

Masha Smallhorn, Jeanne Young-Kirby, Narelle Hunter, Karen Burke Da Silva

    Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


    The science laboratory has traditionally been seen as a critical part of an undergraduate science degree. In this space, students apply knowledge gained through the lecture series and participate in laboratory activities designed to test conceptstaught but which often result in a predicted outcome. The step-by-step nature of traditional laboratories limits the opportunity for students to develop critical thinking and analysis skills both fundamental to research science. Inquiry-based laboratories have beenshown to result in a deeper understanding of scientific content, increase confidence in understanding and performing science and improve students’ attitudes towards science (Gormallyet al.2011; Weaveret al.2008; Wood 2009) . To improve the learning outcomes of our large first year biology cohort, the laboratories were redeveloped into guided-inquiry with educators facilitating teams of students to design and carryout an experiment.To evaluate the impact of the redevelopment on student satisfaction and learning outcomes, students were surveyed and multiple choice exam data was compared before and after the redevelopment. An analysis of the survey questions indicated
    that students thought the laboratories improved the quality of their university experience, helped them to understand the major concepts of the topics, challenged them intellectually and helped to develop their data analysis skills. Overall, there was asignificant improvement in student answers to exam questions (paired t-test p=0.001). The exam questions were further classified as content related or laboratory related, determined by whether the material examined by the question was covered during one of the laboratory sessions. There was a significant improvement in exam questions identified as content related before the redevelopment and laboratory related after the redevelopment (paired t-test p=0.0001). Overall these findings suggest that the move to inquiry-based learning has improved the learning outcomes of first year biology students at Flinders University.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 7 Jul 2015
    Event62nd Annual General Meeting of the Genetics Society of AustralAsia -
    Duration: 5 Jul 20158 Jul 2015


    Conference62nd Annual General Meeting of the Genetics Society of AustralAsia


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