A good college education in this day and age should help students become integrative thinkers who engage in solving real problems. Thus, an authentic research experience should be a part of every college student’s curriculum. Our class sizes at the University of Great Falls are small enough to be able to provide such an experience for our students. It is particularly important to engage entry level students in “problem-posing”, so as to stimulate a better understanding of scientific principles, and, more importantly, the desire to continue to advance the study of science.
The strongest component of an inquiry-based course should be opportunities for practice and reflection to encourage the development of metacognitive skills. Presenting students with open-ended problems, such as the design and execution of their own lab experiment, allows them to test their preconceptions, entertain competing hypotheses, and finally, attend to make conclusions. Consequently, we need to reorganize our information and resources for the first and second year Biology Lab curriculum to better support student centered inquiry. Each of the labs curriculum will be divided into “topic blocks” each semester and include four elements. One element will provide background information on the research area using recent primary literature. Another element will offer a research-based simulation to provide students a hands-on experience with the experimental system. A third element will include a set of open research questions that students might address. The final element will be to outline the resources available in the Biology department that students might use to further investigate the research question.
|Department of Biology|
|University of Great Falls|
|Great Falls, MT 59405|