Inquiry-Based Learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (Stem) Programs: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators: Volume 4

Cover of Inquiry-Based Learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (Stem) Programs: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators
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Table of contents

(26 chapters)
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Foreword

Pages xiii-xiv
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Part I: Concepts and Principles

Abstract

This chapter provides an introduction to how the inquiry-based learning (IBL) approach is being used by colleges and universities around the world to strengthen the interconnections between teaching, learning, and research within STEM programs. This chapter provides a synthesis and analysis of the chapters in the volume, which present a range of case studies and empirical research on how IBL is being used across a range of courses across a range of institutions within STEM programs. Based on these findings, this chapter argues that the IBL approach has great potential to enhance and transform teaching and learning. Given the growing demands placed on education to meet a diverse range of complex political, economic, and social problems and personal needs, this chapter argues that education should be a place where students learn “how-to-learn” – where increasingly higher levels of self-directed learning is fostered – and where students grow in the three key areas of learning: affectively, behaviorally, and cognitively. To that end, this chapter argues that IBL, if designed and implemented properly, can be an important approach to enhancing and transforming teaching and learning in higher education.

Abstract

Inquiry-based learning is a fruitful way to create “effective, independent learners” (Baird, 1988, p. 142) and set up the pattern for lifelong learning, but inquiry skills demand significant practice to master and incorporate in both academic and personal dimensions. The Bachelor of Health Sciences Honours program at McMaster University provides a model of an undergraduate program that balances knowledge and the complex transferrable skills associated with inquiry. By devoting considerable resources to the first year experience and integrating the curriculum so that meaningful use is made of the inquiry skills developed there, the program fosters the curiosity, confidence, and capability of students. The curriculum demonstrably meets or exceeds the standards for quality set out by governing bodies within and outside of the university known as the degree level expectations. The current chapter provides an overview of the program, including lessons for anyone engaged in curriculum design that builds undergraduate research capability.

Abstract

A review of the first year physics laboratory program in 1991 at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) revealed that student laboratory experiences did not: resemble the practice of physicists; give a realistic picture of the contribution of physics to everyday life, or; enhance students’ capabilities of broad value, such as their communication skills. Physics academics at UTS committed themselves to reforming students’ laboratory experiences with inquiry-oriented learning as a center-piece of the reform. This chapter explores the drivers that led to the reconceptualization of the role of the laboratory in the undergraduate curriculum and the strategies and processes we adopted over more than 20 years to embed inquiry-oriented activities into first year physics laboratory programs.

Abstract

Arnold Arons, along with Robert Karplus, can fairly be called one of the founding fathers of U.S. Physics Education Research and a pioneer of inquiry methods of education. The instructional methods advocated by Arons were influenced by the work of Socrates, Plato, Montaigne, Rousseau, Dewey, Whitehead, and Piaget, but are primarily derived from Arons’ epic half century effort to improve introductory science teaching by shutting up and listening carefully to students’ responses to probing Socratic questions on physics, science, and ways of thinking. Arons emphasized: (1) conceptual understanding, (2) operative knowledge, (3) interactive engagement, (4) Socratic dialogue, (5) attention to cognitive development, (6) attention to preconceptions of beginning students, (7) operational definitions, (8) reduction of volume and pace of standard introductory courses, (9) idea first, name afterward, (10) importance of a course “story line,” and (11) science as a liberal art. Most of these are attributes of enlightened inquiry-based learning as described in Inquiry and the National Science Education Standards: A Guide for Teaching and Learning (NRC, 2000).

Part II: Practices and Strategies

Abstract

We describe an introductory class in biological engineering that uses project-based and mentored inquiry to create a supportive, exciting, and effective learning environment. Freshman students at MIT work in small teams and with senior MIT students to design a biotechnology that addresses a real-world challenge of their choosing. Students gain familiarity with the tools and vocabulary for biodesign first through some hands-on experiences with synthetic biological systems and later by working in teams to define, present and then refine their ideas. A multiyear study of the class experience and impact included postsurveys and semistructured interviews of two freshman cohorts and a retrospective survey of three freshman cohorts. Data support the claim that students perceive academic gains through their project-based classroom experience. Freshmen reported they are better able to understand content in some of their other MIT courses, are better able to read scientific articles, and now think differently about biology. Moreover, they indicated the class was valuable in learning technical content and synthetic biology. We find this project-based class helps students make meaningful connections to scientific ideas, to personal goals and to a vision of their future selves.

Abstract

This chapter will provide an overview of how Problem Based Learning (PBL) is used to support first year chemistry students at the University of Leicester, United Kingdom. The chapter will go on to provide an overview of the learning journey that we have undertaken over the last seven years by discussing the challenges we have encountered and by including details of how we have adapted our approach based on student and staff feedback and other considerations. The chapter is a follow up to a previously published article with a focus on the changes made since this initial publication (Williams, Woodward, Symons & Davies, 2010).

Abstract

My interest in inquiry-based learning spans my career teaching science and non-science majors about cell/molecular biology, genetics, and evolution. My Genetics Lab course allows students to perform hypothesis-driven research in small groups using my research program as the basis for their authentic, discovery-based experiences. This course has undergone multiple revisions and is now suitable for the cognitive developmental level of undergraduates; it challenges them but avoids frustrating them. I will share how to navigate the trade-off of reducing content coverage in favor of emphasizing the scientific process and the actual doing of science. I will describe how to help students understand the difference between information and knowledge, how to better comprehend the primary literature, and how to build on this body of work to advance scientific discovery and understanding. I will illustrate how to scaffold and improve student’s existing skills and abilities such as critical thinking, oral and written communication, data interpretation and reporting, and how to develop and expand on their creativity in posing questions that become the basis of their hypothesis-driven work in the laboratory. Finally, I will explain why I choose to use my research program as a means of guided discovery rather than an open-ended format.

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss cases involving pre-service mathematics teachers. These cases highlight teachers’ understanding of perspectives as they solve and analyze student work involving tasks that call for translations between algebraic and graphical representations. Findings suggest that flexible or inflexible knowledge structures influence participant’s attempt to analyze or address student thinking.

Findings from this study highlight a major concern for teacher education and IBL efforts. If teachers do not have a flexible knowledge base to draw from, teachers may fail to capture important aspects of students’ thinking and help students develop appropriate understandings. Such failure may result in missed opportunities to effectively assist students to explore, create and communicate, ideas that are core to IBL.

Abstract

Science Education Outdoors provides students with direct contact with natural phenomena and enables active learning, a key factor in Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE), a student-centred methodology for the acquisition, construction and understanding of knowledge.

This chapter will describe three case studies which used the IBSE methodology as both a teaching and learning methodology, promoting a deeper understanding of how IBSE can contribute to the success of learning and teaching in outdoor settings.

The three case studies were based on three training courses conducted at the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra (BGUC, Portugal). The first case study was the annual regular course for garden educators, and the other two were the two editions of the COInquire professional and accreditation training course for teachers and educators. Involving a total of 70 participants, data was collected through the application of questionnaires.

The study revealed that all participants considered IBSE a successful teaching–learning process and they remarked the opportunities created for the active construction of new knowledge. Strengthened by numerous live educational resources, the use of IBSE in the garden facilitated the questioning and interpretation of nature, supporting the open-minded and well-founded training of teachers, educators and students.

Additionally, the participants considered IBSE to be an effective methodology to boost their professional improvement, contributing to the development of innovative approaches to the curricular programmes on biodiversity and sustainability.

Abstract

Society is increasingly confronted with a range of complex social problems that need to be addressed using a research process based on collaboration between stakeholders from both science and society and the integration of knowledge from different disciplines. This type of interdisciplinary research is more complex than mono disciplinary research and requires skills at the cognitive, inter-personal, and intra-personal levels. We present the experiences with an interdisciplinary master’s program. The research question we address is what educational strategy prepares students for interdisciplinary research on complex social problems? Since tasks which are too complex can frustrate students and create resistance, we argue for a gradual approach to inquiry-based learning. We interviewed both students and lecturers, and included curricula evaluations. We found that students can be trained in interdisciplinary research based on a gradual approach to open inquiry and we found a relationship between the complexity of cognitive tasks and the amount of learning in other domains. We argue that when students are challenged at the right level with appropriate guidance, the learning domains will reinforce each other. To keep students optimally challenged, it is crucial that the teachers adjust their role while directing students from structured inquiry towards open inquiry.

Abstract

Nipissing University in North Bay, Ontario, Canada, working in partnership with leading health science centers in Toronto, Ontario, has developed a unique second-degree entry Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program called the Scholar Practitioner Program. This program is a response to the increasing demand for nursing programs which builds on prior university learning.

The program uses an educational model based on narrative inquiry and cognitive apprentice pedagogies. Narrative inquiry pedagogy is the overarching philosophical framework of the program, which embraces values that connect teachers and learners. A spirit of inquiry is cultivated in every student and a research culture embedded in the student’s practice.

The six-semester two-year full-time program occurs in a learner-driven environment which shapes how specific semester program objectives are met. A strong emphasis is placed on experiential learning within the Toronto-based academic health sciences centers.

A continuous interactive process involving teachers and learners encourages self-directed learning and participant accountability. Application of knowledge and skills in a professional, caring, and holistic manner is expected. This type of undergraduate learning environment which includes immersion in the employment milieu enables the future scholar practitioner to be relevant in the evolving profession of nursing.

Abstract

In this chapter, we discuss ways to create optimal conditions that enable K-12 learners to experience and practice science by engaging in inquiry as an essential practice in EcoVoices, an urban environmental education program based in Los Angeles. We do this through the synergistic contributions of McComas, a science education theorist who developed the ED3U instructional model; and Shope, a science education innovator who has applied, modified, and validated the model in real-world learning settings. The essential premise behind this shared work is that the more opportunity students have to practice doing science, the more authentic their science learning experience will be. And inquiry, as a science process, is one of the most important elements in the practice of science.

Abstract

This chapter discusses the implementation and current use of an inquiry-based approach to teaching and learning at Whitireia Community Polytechnic (Whitireia), a tertiary education institution, known for its high student success rate and culturally diverse student body. The Faculty of Health at Whitireia have developed the use of a context-based learning (CBL) approach across a range of courses in several health disciplines; these include nursing (undergraduate and postgraduate), paramedic, and foundational support work courses.

Abstract

Inquiry-Based Science Education (IBSE) is considered as a powerful pedagogical practice for renewing science teaching in and out of school. However, despite the spread of IBSE projects, solid evaluation practices have not yet been adequately developed. Practitioners are often uncomfortable with the evaluation task, usually spending little time on it and using poor tools to evaluate IBSE activities. To investigate this issue, we developed an analysis of the European project INQUIRE within the framework of Evaluation Capacity Building theory (ECB). INQUIRE fosters IBSE activities in schools and botanic gardens, promoting training for teachers and educators working with pupils aged between 9 and 14. ECB aims at developing evaluation capabilities in order to conduct rigorous evaluation. Adopting a mixed-methods approach, we systematically analysed evaluations used within courses held in Italy over two years (2011–2013). Study findings suggest that the INQUIRE project has helped practitioners to improve their ability to conduct effective evaluations. However, we also identified two concerns, as IBSE practices tend to focus on cognitive rather than cooperative teaching elements, and on summative rather than formative evaluation methods. The following four recommendations are consequently suggested: promoting dynamic assessment processes, ensuring clearness and flexibility, valuing tacit knowledge, and fostering cooperation.

Abstract

Most college students are required to take at least one mathematics course. Many of these students view mathematics as a dry and tedious subject, where the main task is to “plug and chug” using formulas. In contrast, mathematicians see mathematics as a creative process in which real joy comes from grappling with difficult problems and (hopefully) solving them. In this way, mathematics is like a fun puzzle. The challenge is to get students to view mathematics the same way that their teachers do. Inquiry-based learning (IBL) can help solve this problem. The Academy of Inquiry-Based Learning describes IBL as a pedagogical method that encourages students to conjecture, discover, solve, explore, collaborate, and communicate (What is IBL? (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.inquirybasedlearning.org/?page=What_is_IBL). With IBL, teachers do not lay out all of the formulas and theorems as previous knowledge. Nor do they provide perfect, easily worked through examples and proofs for every new topic. Instead, IBL courses demonstrate the creative process that is mathematics. IBL makes class more enjoyable for both teachers and students, and can bring students closer to the real experiences of mathematicians.

Abstract

This chapter provides an outline of how the essential elements of problem-based learning (PBL) can be adapted to enhance inquiry-based learning environments and in the process teach 21st century skills. It uses a case study of a first-year nursing course at a regional Australian university to show how essential PBL elements can be adapted in an ‘ePBL’ context, following five ePBL steps. Overall, it is argued that a carefully mapped outset of learning outcomes and PBL problems designed as inquiry-based activities provide a ‘liquid learning’ environment that will ultimately prepare confident graduates who will be able to take full advantage of the 21st century learning and professional contexts in which they find themselves.

Author Index

Pages 333-340
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Subject Index

Pages 341-346
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Cover of Inquiry-Based Learning for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (Stem) Programs: A Conceptual and Practical Resource for Educators
DOI
10.1108/S2055-364120154
Publication date
2015-10-12
Book series
Innovations in Higher Education Teaching and Learning
Editors
Series copyright holder
Emerald Publishing Limited
ISBN
978-1-78441-850-2
eISBN
978-1-78441-849-6
Book series ISSN
2055-3641