Transforming undergraduate biology learning with inquiry-based instruction

Jennifer K Frisch, Paula C. Jackson, Meg C. Murray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-236
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Computing in Higher Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Special thanks to Ricardo Jabardo for the graphic design of Fig. 1 , and to Joshua Hashemi for the collection of screenshots and assisting in coding the data. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0942085. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. This study was funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant # 0942085).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.


  • Innovation
  • Inquiry learning
  • Resistance to inquiry
  • Science education
  • Sensemaking
  • Wayfinding


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