enrolled in courses with different styles of instruction, the prevailing
perceptions pointed toward balance. All interviews revealed that
students do not want to abandon the traditional lecture but want
shorter, more interactive lectures that connect the content to their
lives and experiences. Proponents of inquiry-based teaching do not
recommend abandoning all traditional methods. Lectures can be,
and often are, important, even in inquiry-based classrooms (
Marshall et al., 2009). For example, lectures can occur after students
engage with materials to reinforce content, teach abstract concepts,
or address misconceptions. Students who were given the opportunity to experience an inquiry-based course during this project
appreciated it but wanted guided inquiry over open inquiry (
minimal guidance). Further, many of these students commented on
their increased interest in science. One student said, “Before this
course, I could not stand science, but I loved the hands-on activities and the discussions, now I’m more apt to do more science classes; I did like your approach on teaching it.” Pre- to post-course
survey results confirmed this common feeling. Instructors must
find their own unique combination of teaching techniques to meet
the needs of their unique students. Even though “inquiry methods
are not a panacea for college student learning” (Neuby, 2010, p. 4),
inquiry-based teaching holds great promise, and the research thus
far has indicated that it is worth embracing.
This study would not be possible without the collaboration of the
Biology 110 evening students. We are grateful to Leah Kiernan,
Britney Garvin, Chris Bogiages, and Cory Fuller for technical
assistance. We thank Jim Privett, Stephen Thompson, and Xiao-feng Liu for guidance on this project, and the anonymous
reviewers for their suggestions on improving the manuscript. A
final thanks to the USC Columbia Department of Instruction
and Teacher Education for use of their video equipment and
USC Sumter for their tuition assistance program and use of their
lab facility and supplies.
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