used at the beginning of each class to expose misconceptions;
experiments that generated various questions occurred before
explanations were given; students built and critiqued one another’s
experimental procedures (instead of following step-by-step directions) before whole-class consensus; and group and whole-class critiques of students’ conclusions occurred, with a focus on the
evidence acquired. Since the same quizzes and tests were used in
all the courses, each course was nearly identical in terms of the
chapter content covered and the amount of time spent on that content. Having the same instructor for all classes under investigation
allowed for consistency among the courses. Students worked in
pairs and sometimes in larger groups during experiments.
All classes during the first year of research were video recorded to
verify the intended teaching technique. The Electronic Quality of
Inquiry Protocol (EQUIP) tool (Marshall et al., 2009) was used to
assess and confirm the degree of inquiry-based teaching between
the comparative courses. EQUIP describes four levels of inquiry.
The range runs from pre-inquiry (Level 1) to developing inquiry
(Level 2) to proficient inquiry (Level 3) and ends with exemplary
inquiry (Level 4). EQUIP has been used recently to assess the
inquiry-based practices of middle school and high school teachers.
The tool’s reliability and validity were established during its development over a period of three years (Marshall et al., 2010).
All classes during the first year of research were watched and
EQUIP assessed. To establish inter-rater reliability, 20% of the videos of the class sessions from each style of course were assessed by
EQUIP-trained individuals other than the instructor who assessed
the remaining 80% of the videos. EQUIP ratings were consistent
among all assessors. Paired t-tests verified that the inquiry-based
course had a significantly higher average EQUIP score (M = 2.7)
than the traditional course (M = 1.6) (P = 0.003).
Evaluation of Students’ Attitudes &
In assessing attitudes toward science as a subject in school, we
employed pre- and post-course surveys with all 42 nontraditional
students (19 in a traditional course, 23 in an inquiry-based course).
We used a popular attitude survey created by Germann (1988),
who also established its reliability and validity. Cronbach’s alpha
was redone for this study, and the results confirmed a > 0.7 reliability statistic at 0.93, similar to Germann’s (1988) results. We implemented this attitude survey as a pre-course survey at the beginning
of the semesters before any teaching occurred, and the same survey
was conducted at the end of the semesters for comparison with the
pre-survey. The Likert scale was treated as an interval so that an
independent, two-sampled t-test could be used in data analysis
(Knapp, 1990; Agresti & Finlay, 2009).
To address nontraditional students’ perceptions of an effective
Students’ Attitudes toward Science
science curriculum, D.A.K. conducted focus group interviews at
the end of the semester after final grades were submitted. Students
were recruited to participate in the focus group interviews on a vol-
untary basis. Although not true random assignment, students with
the highest grades in the course were mixed with students with the
lowest grades in the course to make up the interview group. The
numbers of students and times of interviews are shown in Table 3.
These interviews on perceptions were video recorded and then tran-
scribed and coded in a manner similar to that described by Löfgren
(2013). The coding schema was created following Coffey and Atkin-
son (1996). The goal was to look for patterns in nontraditional stu-
dents’ perceptions of an effective science curriculum. The theme/
code connections that unfolded became the main results from the
Students’ positive attitudes toward science at the completion of the
inquiry-based course (M = 0.27, SD = 0.54) were significantly higher
than those of the students in the traditional course (M = 0.0,
SD = 0.47) (P = 0.04). Pre- to post-survey attitude changes were
greater in the inquiry-based courses than in the traditional courses
on every question regarding a favorable attitude toward science.
Figure 1 shows the three questions with the greatest difference between
the two courses in positive attitude change from the beginning of the
course to the end.
The coding schema generated from focus group interviews was used
to display more clearly students’ perceptions of an effective science
curriculum (Figure 2). The comparative groups were viewing science curriculum through the lens of their past science courses and
through the lens of the traditional or inquiry-based science course
Table 3. Focus group times and participants from
each of the Biology 110 sections.
Fall 2: Year 1/Year 2 50/20 7/5
Spring 2: Year 1/Year 2 50/20 9/6
Figure 1. The three questions that showed the greatest
indication of the inquiry-based course outcompeting the
traditional-style course. Bars show how much more positive
change occurred during the inquiry-based course compared to
the traditional course.