Initial Publication Date: April 1, 2016

Developing Inquiry Skills: Program Elements

Inquiry skills have been incorporated into all disciplines and levels of science education at Grinnell. Every introductory science class has undergone reform to incorporate research and active pedagogies (Major Course Revisions Linked to Engaged Learning and Student Success Objectives), a current project focuses on reinvigoration of intermediate level courses, and advanced research opportunities have been developed through Grinnell's MAP program Mentored Advanced Projects.

Mentored Advanced Projects provide students with a chance to work closely with a faculty member on scholarly research that is the culmination of significant preparatory work. It serves to integrate the knowledge and skills gained by the student's course of studies, and aims to produce results that merit presentation to the wider scholarly world. The MAP program builds on the growing body of evidence demonstrating the value of undergraduate research. (Douglas Caulkins, "Student Faculty Research Collaboration in a Liberal Arts College."Anthropology of Work Review, Vol XIX, No. 4 (18-23); David Lopatto, Science in Solution: the Impact of Undergraduate Research on Student Learning; David Lopatto, Undergraduate Research as a High-Impact Student Experience, AACE PeerReview Spring 2010 Vol.12 No.2)

Faculty development activities such as bringing in outside speakers, summer workshops, and approximately monthly lunches of a science teaching and learning group of faculty have supported curricular innovation. Some of these activities are available through Grinnell's college-wide faculty development program. These activities have also significantly contributed to development of interdisciplinary teaching and learning at Grinnell.

In some cases, workshop-formatted courses that integrate lecture and lab within the same time frame have been implemented to more closely resemble the scientific process:
  • Several computer science classes involve a mix of discussions, collaborative activities, labs and lectures within the same course schedule time slot. CS151 The Digital Age is one example.
  • Physics students choose a traditional or workshop style introductory course.
  • One of four sections of organic chemistry is taught in a workshop format in a room specifically designed to foster discussion, hands-on learning, and team work.

Assessing impact of pedagogical reforms has been measured using student-reported learning outcomes using The Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE).

Assessing impact of summer research has been measured using student-reported learning outcomes using The Classroom Undergraduate Research Experience (CURE) survey.

Weinman, Jensen, and Lopatto Improving the outcomes of student research experiences in computer science, measured using The Survey of Undergraduate Research Experiences (SURE)

The Grinnell Science Project aims to address barriers to success in the sciences through curricular and mentoring changes, activities and structures that foster acclimation to college life and a community of scientists, and improvement of student achievement. Details about the Grinnell Science Project are described on Grinnell's Increasing Persistence of All Students in STEM page.

  • The Grinnell Science Project (GSP) has been honored with the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM), administered by the National Science Foundation

Major Course Revisions Linked to Engaged Learning and Student Success Objectives




Year Implemented

Biology 150

Introduction to Biological Inquiry

NEW, completely inquiry/research-based, workshop format

Fall 2001

Biology 251

Molecules, Cells, and Organisms

NEW, content rearranged, small group work

Fall 2001

Biology 252

Organisms, Evolution, and Ecology

NEW, content rearranged, workshop format

Spring 2002

Chemistry 129

General Chemistry

Content rearranged, hands-on modules, small group work, workshop section

Fall 1997, continuing

Chemistry 221-222

Organic Chemistry

Engaged pedagogies, small group work, workshop section

Fall 1999,

Fall 2008

Computer Science 151-152

Fundamentals of Computer Science

Workshop style, transition to multi-paradigm approach instead of the more traditional imperative paradigm approach

Fall 1992

Mathematics 123-124

Functions and Differential Calculus, Functions and Integral Calculus

NEW, slower paced equivalent to core calculus semester

Fall 1997, Spring 1998

Physics 131-132

General Physics

workshop sections

Spring 1993, Fall 1994

Psychology 113

Introduction to Psychology

NEW, smaller sections, more experimental-based work

Fall 2002

MAPs 499

Mentored Advanced Projects

NEW, integrate student-faculty research collaborations into curriculum

1993, 2002, continuing