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Abstract Detail



Teaching Section

Tuominen, L.K. [1].

Inquiry-Based Research in the Undergraduate Genetics Lab: Lessons Learned.

The AAAS Vision and Change Initiative has identified inquiry-based learning and authentic research experiences as key instructional methods appropriate for all undergraduate biology courses. Authentic research experiences involve student participation in projects with potential for peer-reviewed publication. Inquiry-based learning uses scientific questions as a starting point for student engagement in scientific thought processes, including experimental design and execution. Inquiry-based activities range from primarily instructor-directed and predictable “confirmation inquiries” to primarily student-led, open ended “open inquiries”. Research and student opinions support the effectiveness of inquiry-based research that is more student-driven. Meanwhile, departmental curricula may require specific lab techniques to be included in a given course, and many students have no previous lab or field experience, indicating a need for scaffolding.

With these benefits and challenges in mind, I have sought to link three inquiry-based projects with a central theme of leaf color in an upper-level Genetics course. In all projects, students developed hypotheses, carried out standard wet lab and computational methods, faced interpretive ambiguity, and drew conclusions. The projects were designed as a structured, a guided, and an open inquiry, respectively, scaffolding the development of scientific thinking skills. This progressive guided inquiry approach created an opportunity for students to synthesize class-level data from individual group results for their final projects, which were then shared in a final symposium.
Key lessons learned from two semesters using progressive guided inquiry in Genetics include the importance of limiting experimental complexity, clearly differentiating between experimental methods and projects, and incorporating student-accessible tools for authentic research. Unexpectedly, student participation in troubleshooting and refinement efforts during the final class-level projects simulated the institutional culture of an academic research lab, wherein project findings could contribute to iterative refinements for similar inquiries in later semesters. These insights have contributed to the design of a progressive guided inquiry on cell biology for a nonmajors biology course.


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1 - Metropolitan State University, Department of Natural Sciences, 700 East Seventh Street, St. Paul, MN, 55106, USA

Keywords:
inquiry
authentic research
genetics
undergraduate education
progressive guided inquiry
Phylogenetics
gene expression
phytoene desaturase.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper:Papers for Sections
Session: 34
Location: Salon 9/The Shaw Conference Centre
Date: Tuesday, July 28th, 2015
Time: 8:45 AM
Number: 34004
Abstract ID:130
Candidate for Awards:None


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