Implementing Inquiry-Based Learning in a General Microbiology Laboratory

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Virginia Tech

In recent years there has been an increased interest in inquiry-based learning, also known as experiential learning or problem-based learning, as a more appropriate model of teaching science. The purpose of this study was to incorporate inquiry-based learning in a college sophomore-level General Microbiology Laboratory. The goal of this laboratory course is to introduce students to basic techniques and procedures necessary for the study of microorganisms. Laboratory sections were randomly assigned to an experimental group or a control/reference group. The experimental group was taught the concept of serial dilutions using an inquiry-based learning approach whereas the control group was taught using traditional teaching methods. Analysis of the data generated from the students' involvement in the investigation during the fall semester indicated that the experimental group had a slightly greater improvement in their knowledge of serial dilution. The study continued in the spring semester and involved close to 300 students. During the spring semester both the experimental and the control groups had similar attitudes about their learning experience as evaluated by a Lickert Scale survey. However, a statistical analysis of the quiz scores of the students with values within the interquartiles indicated the experimental classes' quiz scores were significantly higher on quiz 2 taken at the midpoint in the study. Thus an inquiry-based learning approach was found to be beneficial to the middle 50% of the class.

hands-on activity, serial dilution, inquiry-based learning, problem-based learning, experiential learning