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Transforming Undergraduate Biology Learning with Inquiry-Based Instruction

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Journal of Computing in Higher Education Volume 30, Number 2, ISSN 1042-1726


We developed an inquiry-driven course to enable students to develop skills they need to effectively use large amounts of information available on the Internet (including evaluating information, synthesizing, and collaborating) and engage more deeply with science content. Student teams collaborated to construct a scientific question, research what was known at the time about the answer to their question, and generate a final product to communicate their findings using multimedia on a web-based platform. Course iterations consistently yielded at least one group of students who "transformed" from struggling to successful, which led us to use content and narrative analysis of case studies to distinguish group types. We found three group types: "High Engaging (HE)," "Transformed (T)," and "Low Engaging (LE)." Each group type succeeded in creating a final web-based project. However, the projects created varied in level of cognitive depth between groups and indicated traits common to each group type. We outline similarities and differences among group types, use differences in groups to identify mechanisms that could facilitate deeper levels of cognitive engagement, and make recommendations about how educators can enable an increase in the number of highly engaged students in this type of inquiry-based course.


Frisch, J.K., Jackson, P.C. & Murray, M.C. (2018). Transforming Undergraduate Biology Learning with Inquiry-Based Instruction. Journal of Computing in Higher Education, 30(2), 211-236. Retrieved December 5, 2020 from .

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