Research-Led Inquiry Pedagogy when Re-Conceptualising Science Curricula: Promise and Pitfalls

Pauline M. Ross


Across the globe higher education is transforming due to rapid changes in technology, sector wide structural reform and advances in our understanding of how students learn. Questions are now being asked about which pedagogies will best engage students, add value to the on-campus experience, create global opportunities and meet the expectations of employers. In these challenging times, opportunities are emerging to systematically embed pedagogies in science curricula, which in previous times may have failed to get traction, and one such pedagogy currently emerging in science education world-wide is inquiry based learning. Inquiry based pedagogy is now seen by academics as the solution to adequately meet the needs of students studying science at all educational levels. Curiously, however, last century’s curriculum reform in science education failed due to inquiry-based pedagogy. Hence, the question is: how do we stop history from repeating itself and systematically and successfully implement research-led and inquiry-based pedagogy into higher education science curricula? As an attempt to answer this, research-led inquiry was used as a unifying pedagogy to re-conceptualise Science and Biomedical Science degrees at a large metropolitan university. The “how to do this” is described using a top down and bottom up process at various levels, from the individual laboratory and transformation of “cook-book” laboratories, culminating in capstone units, and the pitfalls of implementation are also discussed, in order to answer the question of whether the promise of inquiry-based pedagogy in science education will ever match reality.

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