3/14/13 Genuine Inquiry

What Would Biologists Do? Embedding genuine inquiry in the introductory biology lab experience.


Sonya Lawrence, John Urbance, Charles Elzinga and John Merrill

CNS Biological Sciences Program

Thursday, March 14, 2013, 11:30-1:30.

About the Session:

Most recent national reports on the state of undergraduate science education call for an emphasis on inquiry-driven learning experiences, especially as these can reflect the actual practices of professional biologists/scientists. Unfortunately, the traditional lower division science labs have typically had far more confirmation than genuine inquiry. The BioSci lab coordinators, assisted by some of the lecture instructors, have over time modified our approach to the intro lab experience. A helpful tool has been our adoption of the guiding question: “What would biologists do?” If an aspect of the existing lab exercises was not something that practicing biologists would do, it came under scrutiny and was likely to be discarded, or at least transformed, in favor of some replacement activity that was more authentic.

We will discuss several examples of how this has played out in our revision of lab instruction. We will go into considerable detail as we explore the way in which student-originated, guided research projects are threaded into the courses and how these projects facilitate achievement of some of the bigger goals articulated in those national calls to action. Important aspects of this transformation include how to manage such projects at the large scale of our instruction, how to manage and leverage the expertise of our teaching assistants, and how to encourage engagement with real (and sometimes outdoor) biology when constrained by the seasons.

About The Presenters:

Sonya Lawrence is the lab coordinator in the Biological Science Program.

John Urbance is a faculty member and Lab Coordinator / Honors Biology in the Biological Science Program.

Charles Elzinga is a faculty member and Lab Coordinator / Honors Biology in the Biological Science Program.

John Merrill is the Director of the Biological Science Program which is responsible for introductory BioScience courses for majors that enroll several thousand students per year.

Video of the Session

What would biologists do? from ANR Communications MSU on Vimeo.

PowerPoint slides for the workshop