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Adv Physiol Educ. 2003 Dec;27(1-4):230-40.

Guided development of independent inquiry in an anatomy/physiology laboratory.

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Department of Biology, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota 55105, USA.


Student-originated projects are increasingly utilized in the biology laboratory as a means of engaging students and revitalizing the laboratory experience by allowing them one to two weeks to collect data on a manipulated variable of their choice by use of an introduced technique. Such experiments fail as good models of investigative learning when they place more emphasis on novel ideas than on hypothesis testing, experimental design, statistical rigor, or use of the primary literature. In addition, students get used to the routine and tend to design the same type of simplistic experiments in each course unless challenged. Laboratories in a Comparative Anatomy and Physiology course at the University of St. Thomas were reorganized to encourage the development of investigative skills in a stepwise fashion throughout the semester. Initial labs concentrated on experimental design and statistical analysis, then use of the primary literature in interpretation of the data was emphasized, and finally, students were asked to design their experiments and analyze their data on the basis of models from the primary literature.

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