LONDRAVILLE, RL; NIEWIAROWSKI, PH; SHAUVER, L; SPENCER, J; University of Akron; University of Akron; University of Akron; University of Akron: Inquiry labs for Biology majors result in significant improvements in logical thinking skills, confidence in biology, and attitude toward science.
UA Biology has dramatically redesigned our introductory Biology majors lab course, such that all labs are inquiry based. Students work in small groups to design experiments based on the research areas of UA Biology faculty. During the 2002-2003 academic year all sections of lab were inquiry based, and we used standardized, validated instruments to assess the impact of this pedagogical change. Instruments were administered at the beginning and end of both the Fall and Spring semesters, such that we could track changes within individual students across semesters. Logical thinking skills were assessed with the Group Assessment of Logical Thinking (GALT). GALT scores improved from a mean score of 7.96 +/- 0.24 to 8.65 +/- 0.24 (Fall pre vs. Spring post), with the greatest improvement among ‘concrete’ thinkers. Confidence in biology was assessed with the Biology Self Efficacy Scale (BSES), which improved 28% in mean score (pre vs. post). Attitude toward science, a metric shown to be strongly correlated with student success, increased 33% (mean score, pre vs. post). All differences were highly significant (p<0.001). Our preliminary results also indicate that the fraction of Biology majors that we retain through the introductory sequence also improves with the introduction of the inquiry labs. Supported by NSF DUE-0088318 to RLL and PHN.