Cost-effective, inquiry-guided introductory biomaterials laboratory for undergraduates

Casey Jane Ankeny, Sarah E. Stabenfeldt

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review


Inquiry-guided instruction has been shown as more effective than traditional instruction. In inquiry-based instruction, students work in a self-directed manner to interpret outcomes based on investigation of their own question. Here, we describe a cost-effective, sustainable biomaterials laboratory for juniors using inquiry-guided instruction at a large public university. The four laboratory components focused on key biomaterial topics and lasted for two-to-three weeks. During the first week, students were provided with available materials pertaining to the module and worked with group members and instructor(s) to devise and test a custom hypothesis instead of using "cookie cutter" lab manuals. In the second week, students performed experiments to test their hypotheses. During the last week, students either continued to perform data collection or complete analysis appropriate for their custom experimental design, depending on experimental design. Each lab was scaled to be completed in 90 minutes. This allows for multiple mini-sessions in the allotted period, resulting in smaller groups and a variety of hypotheses. Further, this course design allowed students at a large institution to have a more personal, hands-on experience. This laboratory was developed for 120 students meeting during the same three hour block. Total costs per student for the four modules were $35 per student. A student knowledge and value survey called the Scientific Literacy and Student Value in Inquiry-guided Lab Survey (SLIGS) was created, validated, and used to assess the inquiry-guided pedagogy. The SLIGS is comprised of two portions: Part A investigating scientific literacy and Part B investigating student value of the inquiry-guided pedagogy. Both parts were assessed for validity using factor analysis and reliability using Cronbach's alpha. Data were analyzed with Mann-Whitney U tests for non-parametric statistics. The SLIGS had excellent internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha >0.8). All statements factored as anticipated with three exceptions. These exceptions will be revised and re-piloted. The scientific literacy portion showed high levels of confidence both pre- and post-intervention (76% and 91% respectively, npre = 155 and npost=165). Further, there was a statistically significant increase in confidence in all ten categories including explanation of scientific outcomes (79% to 94%), assessment of experimental methodology (75% to 96%), and design of experiment (69% to 95%). With respect to the survey portion pertaining to the value of inquiry-guided labs, students showed a high level of interest [73% mid-semester (M); npre = 129 and 78% at the end of semester (E); npost=162]. Further, they felt that the labs were of utility value (77%-M and 85%-E), and did not require too much in terms of emotional costs (71%-M and 69%-E). Lastly, there was a statistically significant improvement in mid- to end-of-semester assessments in several categories, including facilitation of understanding of own learning, inquiry-guided format's contribution to success in laboratory, ability to see relevance to the real-world, and the desire to see other inquiry-guided labs. In summary, this laboratory is not only sustainable due to low cost and time requirements but also adopts the evidence-based practice of inquiry-based instruction. Moreover, assessment showed student improvement in scientific literacy and favorable student attitudes in terms of interest (attainment value), usefulness (utility value), and emotional costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
Volume122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for Society
Issue number122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition: Making Value for...
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Event2015 122nd ASEE Annual Conference and Exposition - Seattle, United States
Duration: Jun 14 2015Jun 17 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cost-effective, inquiry-guided introductory biomaterials laboratory for undergraduates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this