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Inquiry-Based Biology Labs Give Students a Taste of Research

Posted by on Tuesday, May 31, 2011 in News.

by CFT Assistant Director Derek Bruff

David Salisbury, one of the writers for Vanderbilt’s Research News, recently blogged about the inquiry-based biological sciences lab course designed and taught by senior lecturer Steve Baskauf. The course is an alternative to the standard second-semester lab course. It offers students an opportunity to design their own experiments to answer open questions in biology instead of working through the traditional “cookbook” style labs often seen in other science lab courses.

“The experience is particularly valuable for freshmen and sophomores who are considering careers in biological sciences. They find out if they love it or hate it,” said Baskauf. The course attracts a number of pre-meds as well. “Even if they never go into research, their experiences will help them understand the research-related information that they need to evaluate as physicians.”

I attended the recent end-of-semester poster session for the course. I was impressed by the research Steve’s students were able to accomplish in a single semester. I helped Steve years ago in the early stages of the design of this inquiry-based lab course, and it’s great to see Steve, his teaching assistants, and his students receive some attention from Vanderbilt’s public affairs unit.

If you’re involved in teaching a lab course here at Vanderbilt and would like to talk about ways to make your course more inquiry-based, please let me know.

Photo by David Salisbury, who managed to take photos of a poster session that don’t feature the backs of people’s heads…


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