their dataset. Our biology majors have been exposed to linear regression analysis, Student t-tests, chi-square analysis, and analysis of variance in other laboratory courses. Most students in this physiology
course have also completed a statistics course; this project allowed
them to use skills learned in other courses and apply them appropriately to their data. Near the end of the semester, each group turned
in a single lab report with their findings. Figure 1 shows a sample timeline of how the project can be carried out during a semester-long
Overall, implementation of this retrospective research project
has added a new inquiry-based element to my human physiology
laboratory course. Reinforcement of lecture topics with hands-on
activities still occurs, and the project’s design has overcome
impediments to collecting meaningful data in a human physiol-
ogy lab. The project allowed students to work on various skills,
including working as a collaborative team to manage a research
project and its various deadlines, gaining exposure to retrospec-
tive research design, and using fundamental science skills such
as written communication and statistics. Today’s technology cre-
ates potential for database sharing among institutions, which,
for smaller colleges, may increase the sample size or the useful-
ness of the data collected, as well as giving students the experi-
ence of collaboration outside of their own college.
Brownell, S.E., Kloser, M.J., Fukami, T. & Shavelson, R. (2012). Undergraduate
biology lab courses: comparing the impact of traditionally based
“cookbook” and authentic research-based courses on student lab
experiences. Journal of College Science Teaching, 41(4), 36–45.
Gormally, C., Brickman, P., Hallar, B. & Armstrong, N. (2009). Effects of
inquiry-based learning on students’ science literacy skills and
confidence. International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and
Koenig, T.W., Parrish, S.K., Terregino, C.A., Williams, J.P., Dunleavy, D.M. &
Volsch, J.M. (2013). Core personal competencies important to entering
students’ success in medical school: what are they and how could they
be assessed early in the admission process? Academic Medicine, 88,
Luckie, D.B., Maleszewski, J.J., Loznak, S.D. & Krha, M. (2004). Infusion of
collaborative inquiry throughout a biology curriculum increases
student learning: a four-year study of “teams and streams.” Advances
in Physiology Education, 28, 199–209.
CASSY COZINE is an Associate Professor of Biology at Coe College, Cedar
Rapids, IA 52402; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Table 3. Sample data collected in database. As students collect their personal data during lab, the
information was entered into the course database. Participant numbers have been changed.
1 351.875 241.875 6 72.3 96.67 86/50
2 283.5 160 12.443 87 147 99/59
3 300.5 200 9.85 62.5 123.3 91/75
4 604 574.5 6.634 72 146.66 130/69
Figure 1. Sample layout of a semester-long inquiry-based
retrospective research project. Database design should occur
early in the semester and students should have a clear
understanding of the expectations and deadlines for the
project. Standard phyisiology labs still occur and the data
collected become part of the database.