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NSF grant awarded for research to improve intro biology labs

12/12/2007

Students in Miami's introductory biology laboratory - BMZ 115 - will benefit from research supported by a $199,352 National Science Foundation (NSF) Course, Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement grant. The grant, awarded to principal investigator Elisabeth Schussler (botany) and co-principal investigators Nazan Bautista (teacher education), Nancy Solomon (zoology), Bruce Steinly (zoology) and James Hickey (botany), will help to develop BMZ 115 lab students' understanding of scientific inquiry and the nature of science.

The project was initiated in response to findings that undergraduate science students do not understand the nature of science and scientific inquiry and that they do not necessarily improve their understanding by performing science, according to Schussler. "We will be testing different methods of delivering the labs, including inquiry and student reflection about the nature of science, and seeing what works best to foster student understanding of these ideas," explains Schussler.

The project design includes comparing the efficacy of inquiry versus non-inquiry labs and reflective versus non-reflective practices on student learning. "We are working with Cincinnati State Technical and Community College as well to try these same ideas with students in their biology courses," says Schussler.

A summer workshop for teaching assistants, faculty and local K-12 teachers, development of innovative instructional techniques, a symposium on the nature of science and scientific inquiry and a pilot lab manual are included in the research project.

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