An inquiry-based biochemistry laboratory structure emphasizing competency in the scientific process: A guided approach with an electronic notebook format

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Abstract

The laboratory setting is an exciting and gratifying place to teach because you can actively engage the students in the learning process through hands-on activities; it is a dynamic environment amenable to collaborative work, critical thinking, problem-solving and discovery. The guided inquiry-based approach described here guides the students through their laboratory work at a steady pace that encourages them to focus on quality observations, careful data collection and thought processes surrounding the chemistry involved. It motivates students to work in a collaborative manner with frequent opportunities for feedback, reflection, and modification of their ideas. Each laboratory activity has four stages to keep the students' efforts on track: pre-lab work, an in-lab discussion, in-lab work, and a post-lab assignment. Students are guided at each stage by an instructor created template that directs their learning while giving them the opportunity and flexibility to explore new information, ideas, and questions. These templates are easily transferred into an electronic journal (termed the E-notebook) and form the basic structural framework of the final lab reports the students submit electronically, via a learning management system. The guided-inquiry based approach presented here uses a single laboratory activity for undergraduate Introductory Biochemistry as an example. After implementation of this guided learning approach student surveys reported a higher level of course satisfaction and there was a statistically significant improvement in the quality of the student work. Therefore we firmly believe the described format to be highly effective in promoting student learning and engagement. © 2013 by The International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 42(1):58–67, 2014.

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