Mapping student learning throughout the collaborative inquiry process: the progressive e-poster

Kathy Takayama, John Wilson

Abstract


21st century research approaches in the biological sciences continue to progress at an ever-increasing pace. Advances in computer technologies have resulted in exponential increases in the rate at which biological data are collected, accumulated, disseminated and applied. Biology education has remained
predominantly content-centric, focused on prescribed activities with little autonomy, and pedagogies have remained stagnant in comparison to the implications of research outcomes (National Research Council 2003; Handelsman, Ebert-May, Beichner, Bruns, Chang, DeHaan, Gentile, Lauffer, Stewart, Tilghman, and Wood 2004). There is a critical need for evidence-based reform to align the link between current research and pedagogical practice. This project addresses this need through the creation of collaborative learning communities from a crucial starting point: ‘thinking about thinking’, i.e., the enhancement of learning through individual and group reflection and analysis of the scientific inquiry process.
This project aligns science teaching and learning to the scientific research method using an approach that enhances student engagement and aligns desired learning outcomes with professional practice. The aim was to shift the assessment-driven motivation of students toward intrinsic motivation through collaborative inquiry, and encourage them to reflect on their own learning as they integrate theory with practice. The approach centres on the creation of learning communities structured to facilitate students’ metacognitive awareness of both individual and collaborative learning processes. The integration of reflection, analysis and critique of process
(as opposed to outcome) into a research-based e-poster project enhances student learning by reinforcing the iterative process of the scientific method. The strategic structure of the online and face-to-face components of the collaborative inquiry
process acknowledges and builds upon the disciplinary, cultural, and social diversity of the class.

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