In this study, we compared gains in student content learning over a 10-yr period in which the introductory biology laboratory curriculum was changed in two ways: an increase of inquiry and a reduction of content. Three laboratory formats were tested: traditional 1-wk-long cookbook laboratories, two 7-wk-long inquiry laboratories, and one 14-wk-long inquiry laboratory. As the level of inquiry increased,student learning gains on content exams trended upward even while traditional content coverage taught decreased. In a quantitative assessment of content knowledge, students who participated in the 14-wklong inquiry laboratory format outscored their peers in both 7- and 1-wk-long lab formats on Medical College Admissions Test exam questions (scores of 64.73%, 61.97%, and 53.48%, respectively, P < 0.01). In a qualitative study of student opinions, surveys conducted at the end of semesters where traditional 1-wk laboratories (n = 167 students) were used had low response rates and predominately negative opinions (only 20% of responses were positive), whereas those who participated in 7-wk (n = 543) or 14-wk (n = 308) inquiry laboratories had high response rates and 71% and 96% positive reviews, respectively. In an assessment of traditional content coverage in courses, three indexes were averaged to calculatetraditional forms of coverage and showed a decrease by 44% over the study period. We believe that the quantitative and qualitative data support greater student-driven inquiry in the classroom laboratory, which leads to deeper learning in fewer topic areas (less teaching) and can reap gains in scientific thinking and fundamental understanding applicable to a broader range of topic areas (more learning) in introductory biology.
|Original language||English (US)|
|Number of pages||11|
|Journal||American Journal of Physiology - Advances in Physiology Education|
|State||Published - Dec 1 2012|
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