Integrating Inquiry and Technology into the Undergraduate Introductory Biology Curriculum

Danny Y. T. Liu, Charlotte E. Taylor

Abstract


The challenges facing educators of introductory science subjects include instilling in students a sense of discovery and inquiry instead of just transmitting content knowledge, and integrating assessments that are authentic and worthwhile. In addition, implementation of technology into the curriculum must both engage students and support effective teaching in the context of ever-increasing class sizes. The abstract, and sometimes counterintuitive, nature of biology, for example at a cellular scale, necessitates innovative pedagogical strategies that integrate varied avenues for inquiry-based experimentation and research-led teaching. In this paper, we present a revised curriculum for introductory biology that provides a scaffolded environment where students are encouraged to explore and develop their scientific reasoning skills in authentic theory and practical sessions. We describe and evaluate the design of this scaffolded curriculum, with reference to the integration of theory and practice, a productive failure-based structure of engaging with experimental design, and authentic research-contextualised assessment grounded in critical analyses and application of the primary literature. We also describe the use of technology-enhanced teaching strategies that promote collaborative and active learning, timely feedback for formative and summative assessments, and the integration of online and multimedia resources that support student-centred pedagogy. Our integrative curriculum emphasises developing independence and critical thinking so that students are better equipped for future study in an ever-changing world.

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