Learning Gains from Guided-Inquiry Labs with Bean Beetles

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Title of Abstract: Learning Gains from Guided-Inquiry Labs with Bean Beetles

Name of Author: Lawrence Blumer
Author Company or Institution: Morehouse College
Author Title: Professor
PULSE Fellow: No
Applicable Courses: Ecology and Environmental Biology, Evolutionary Biology, Genetics, Neuroscience, Organismal Biology, Physiology & Anatomy
Course Levels: Faculty Development, Introductory Course(s), Upper Division Course(s)
Approaches: Assessment, Changes in Classroom Approach (flipped classroom, clickers, POGIL, etc.), Material Development
Keywords: guided inquiry, assessment, bean beetles, Callosobruchus, faculty development

Name, Title, and Institution of Author(s): Christopher W. Beck, Emory University

Goals and intended outcomes of the project or effort, in the context of the Vision and Change report and recommendations: The aims of this project were increasing the use of guided-inquiry in undergraduate laboratory courses and to foster the development of new guided inquiry experiments with the bean beetle, Callosobruchus maculatus, model system in physiology, neurobiology, genetics, molecular biology, and developmental biology. Guided-inquiry is a student-centered inquiry method that aligns with the Vision and Change report recommendation that students learn science by doing science.

Describe the methods and strategies that you are using: We conducted four annual faculty development workshops that were attended by a total of 81 faculty from 40 different institutions. Participants were selected to represent a diversity of institution types including 12 minority-serving institutions (24 participants) and eight community colleges (16 participants). Participants, in teams of two from each institution, learned how to work with bean beetles, how guided-inquiry learning may be conducted, and developed a new laboratory activity with bean beetles that they class tested at their own institution.

Describe the evaluation methods that you used (or intended to use) to determine whether the project or effort achieved the desired goals and outcomes: We conducted an Instructional Practices assessment on our workshop faculty participants both prior to our workshop and after implementing their new guided-inquiry laboratory activity. Students in the classes in which a new laboratory activity was implemented also were surveyed on their perceptions of their faculty Instructional Practices. These assessments were conducted to determine whether our workshops changed faculty instructional practices. Furthermore, students were assessed in a pre-test, post-test format on their confidence to conduct scientific research, their knowledge of the nature of science, and their problem solving skills. These student assessments were conducted to determine the effectiveness of guided-inquiry learning.

Impacts of project or effort on students, fellow faculty, department or institution. If no time to have an impact, anticipated impacts: In the first three years of the project, approximately 481 students at 11 institutions were directly affected. They conducted guided-inquiry bean beetle experiments in 37 different courses. The faculty development workshops we conducted were successful in changing teaching practices and those changes were reflected in student perceptions of how they were taught. Students participating in guided-inquiry activities experienced significant gains in confidence to conduct scientific research and these gains were greatest among students whose pre-test confidence was in the lowest quartile. Similarly, the greatest gains in knowledge of the nature of science and problem solving skills were among those students in the lowest pre-test quartiles. These findings indicate that guided inquiry laboratories provide the greatest benefits for students whose needs are the greatest. Our findings provide strong support for the transformation of undergraduate laboratory instructional methods recommended in the Vision and Change report.

Describe any unexpected challenges you encountered and your methods for dealing with them: Not all the faculty who attended our workshops successfully completed their development of a new laboratory activity. This challenge was not entirely unexpected and we withheld two-thirds of their stipend as an incentive for them to complete their work. This incentive was sufficient for the majority of our workshop participants.

Describe your completed dissemination activities and your plans for continuing dissemination: The new guided-inquiry laboratory activities that our workshop participants developed are being posted on the bean beetle website, www.beanbeetles.org. The open access content for these laboratory activities consists of a student handout, instructor notes, sample data, and image and data slides. This website will be maintained for a minimum of 10 years after the end of this project. We continue to collect data from faculty teams that are in the process of completing their work. The results of the Instructional Practices surveys of faculty and students, and the student pre-test, post-test student assessments of confidence to conduct scientific research, knowledge of the nature of science, and problem solving skills will be prepared as manuscripts for publication in peer reviewed journals.

Acknowledgements: We thank Dr. Tom McKlin of the Findings Group for his external evaluation of our project. We also thank the faculty and students of the participating colleges and universities. This project was supported by the National Science Foundation DUE-0815135 and DUE-0814373.