Interdisciplinary Collaboration to Integrate Inquiry-Oriented Learning in Undergraduate Science Practicals

Gerry Rayner, Kate Charlton-Robb, Christopher Thompson, Theo Hughes


The benefits of inquiry-oriented learning (IOL) in undergraduate science courses have been validated through a considerable range of studies incorporating observation and examination data, as well as qualitative and quantitative feedback from students and employers. However, IOL initiatives often occur in single subject or discipline areas, meaning that students may experience IOL in isolated or disjunct forms, without the synergies made possible through interdisciplinary collaboration by educators. This paper reports on the progress of an interdisciplinary approach to develop, implement and evaluate IOL practicals in first year biology, chemistry and physics laboratory teaching programs. This initiative, founded on principles of collegiality and mentorship among the team members, has involved professional development of teaching associates (aka demonstrators), collaboration in the design and branding of inquiry-oriented practicals, and a degree of interdisciplinary alignment of practical assessments. The initiative has generated a more student-centred and coherent approach to enhancement of scientific literacy and a range of associated skills, provided greater clarity and transparency for students, and scaffolded inquiry-oriented approaches throughout the degree.

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