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Adv Physiol Educ. 2003 Dec;27(1-4):26-33.

Inquiry-based laboratory course improves students' ability to design experiments and interpret data.

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  • 1Department of Biology, College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, Minnesota 55105, USA.


We redesigned our intermediate-level organismal physiology laboratory course to center on student-designed experiments in plant and human physiology. Our primary goals were to improve the ability of students to design experiments and analyze data. We assessed these abilities at the beginning and end of the semester by giving students an evaluation tool consisting of an experimental scenario, data, and four questions of increasing complexity. To control for nontreatment influences, the improvement scores (final minus initial score for each question) of students taking both the laboratory and the companion lecture course were compared with those of students taking the lecture course only. The laboratory + lecture group improved more than the lecture-only group for the most challenging question. This evidence suggests that our inquiry-based curriculum is achieving its primary goals. The evaluation tool that we developed may be useful to others interested in measuring experimental analysis abilities in their students.

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