Developing Inquiry Skills

Apprentice-based Research Experiences

STEM majors

An average of 130 students participate in summer research experiences with STEM faculty and staff each summer. In addition, more than 300 students encounter inquiry skills development in STEM courses each semester. The nature of these research experiences allows students to discover and develop inquiry skills that they may not have used in more traditional classes and labs. Some of these skills are developing a hypothesis, gathering data and refining experimental methods, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions that are meaningful in relation to previously published results and conclusions. In some cases, drawing conclusions includes learning both the theory and practice of statistical analysis. When students are engaged in a research question for which the answer is not known to either the student or the faculty mentor, these inquiry skills are strengthened and enhanced. (See References and Resources section.)

Pre-service STEM educators

Pre-service teachers can develop their inquiry skills in teaching and research experiences very similar to those of a traditional student-faculty collaborative project. Starting with the 2004 HHMI award and continuing through the current award, many of these students have been identified as Science Education Scholars (SciEd Scholars) and invited to participate in a summer research experience that combines both research and teaching components. SciEd Scholars have participated in traditional STEM research, including STEM education research, and have participated in K–12 outreach curriculum development and action research. The outreach-focused activity began in partnership with the Hope Summer Science Camp program, which began over fifteen years ago as a program for local K–5 students. In recent years, the program, recently renamed the Center for Exploratory Learning, expanded to include science academy programs for middle school and high school students. These programs connect to faculty research activities when possible.

SciEd Scholars working with the academies are mentored by STEM faculty at Hope and in-service educators from the local community. In developing materials, these educational novices hone their inquiry skills as they plan and prepare. Then, upon teaching the camps, these undergraduates see and experience the development of inquiry skills in the participants. Several SciEd Scholars developed extensive curricular materials that they could later use as professional teachers and that they shared with other educators. Other SciEd scholars carried out assessment activities to help determine the impact of participation in the science camps on the children's knowledge and attitudes about STEM.

Course-based Research Experiences

Introductory Courses

Upper-level Courses

Course-based Research Experiences

From general education courses to introductory STEM majors courses to capstone STEM majors courses, the engagement of students in hands-on STEM learning has been a key element of the STEM education experience. General Education Math and Science courses (GEMS) were developed in 1996 to enable all students to learn science and mathematics by doing science and mathematics. These interdisciplinary courses are designed by teams of faculty to provide students with opportunities to learn math and science in engaging ways. Most of the GEMS courses have elements of STEM research embedded within them.

Once the benefits of undergraduate research experiences were assessed in the 2001–2002 study, it became a priority to engage as many undergraduates in research experiences as possible. While capacity for summer apprentice-model experiences has grown in the past fifteen years, it is not possible to grow to reach all undergraduate STEM majors at Hope. Thus the need to embed research experiences in classes became apparent. The earliest course-based research experiences (CRE) were typically capstone-like courses, though one or two intermediate-level courses have existed for many years. The Course-based Undergraduate Research Experience assessment instrument was developed in partnership with Grinnell College, Hope College, Harvey Mudd College, and Wellesley College to measure the impact of course-based research and research-like experiences on undergraduates. The positive impact on the undergraduate researcher, though not always as significant as a long-term apprentice-model research experience, has encouraged Hope STEM Faculty to develop additional CREs. (See References and Resources section.)

Recent efforts are focused on creating significant course-based research experiences for potential STEM majors in introductory-level courses. Courses that engage the students in significant research experiences as first- or second-year students have been developed with several goals in mind. In some cases, there is a desire to provide experiences similar to the apprentice-model for all students, not just the small fraction that can participate in summer research programs. In addition, there are opportunities for increased productivity of faculty as the large number of student participants may enable additional studies to take place (for example, the SEA-PHAGES model). The most recent CRE model (Day1: Watershed) for first-year students includes a one-week, pre-college research experience that then continues throughout their first year of courses. The goal is to build a strong community for these students through this pre-college research experience that supports them through the first year transition. This course was offered for the first time this academic year and is a part of the new Day1 Research Communities program.