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Inquiry Based Laboratory Instruction Throws Out The "Cookbook" And Improves Learning

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2003 Annual Conference


Nashville, Tennessee

Publication Date

June 22, 2003

Start Date

June 22, 2003

End Date

June 25, 2003



Conference Session

Improving Teaching and Learning

Page Count


Page Numbers

8.712.1 - 8.712.12



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Paper Authors

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H. David Smith

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Cara Rieger

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David Kanter

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Robert Linsenmeier

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Ann McKenna

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


Inquiry-based Laboratory Instruction Throws Out the “Cookbook” and Improves Learning

David E. Kanter 1,2, H. David Smith 3, Ann McKenna 1,2, Cara Rieger 1, Robert A. Linsenmeier 1,4 1 Biomedical Engineering Department / 2 School of Education and Social Policy / 3 Searle Center for Teaching Excellence / 4 Department of Neurobiology and Physiology Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

1.0 Abstract

We designed an inquiry-based pre-laboratory on energy metabolism, applying research on how people learn, toward improving undergraduate biomedical engineering students’ learning and experience. We hypothesized that such instruction would improve students’ capacity to apply core concepts from metabolic physiology and enhance their ability to solve novel problems. Students in the experimental group addressed a challenge: how much food must an astronaut consume daily to keep her or his weight constant? The students’ pre-laboratory was explicitly redesigned to be “learner centered” (students uncovered prior conceptions and debated), “knowledge centered” (students applied knowledge to a real-world problem), “assessment centered” (students discussed their thinking and evoked instructor feedback), and “community centered” (the instructor established cooperative searching for understanding as an in-lab norm). Students then performed the laboratory during which they measured their own metabolic rates. The control group’s experience was similarly challenge-themed and employed the same indirect calorimetry apparatus, but the pre-laboratory instruction was “cookbook” and did not contain the explicit learner-, assessment-, and community-centered aspects. Our assessment included a final exam item constructed to assess students’ ability to apply core energy metabolism concepts in a new context: mass balance and stoichiometry among glucose, respiratory gas values, and energy. This exam item was coded by an evaluator blind as to the condition of each subject, and showed that students who received the experimental pre-laboratory instruction demonstrated a greater ability to apply core concepts, with effect sizes ranging from 0.41 to 0.75. In addition, students completed a survey designed to capture their experience of the course. This survey independently verified the increased learner-, community-, and knowledge-centeredness of the experimental group’s redesigned pre-laboratory. The experimental group also reported a higher degree of satisfaction with the redesigned learning experience.

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Why Teach Undergraduate Biomedical Engineers to Apply Systems Physiology’s Core Concepts?

Grounded in the biological and medical sciences, the undergraduate Biomedical Engineering (BME) curriculum has systems physiology at its core, reflected by the extent to which most undergraduate BME curricula include one or more formal courses in systems physiology. Proceedings of the 2003 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright © 2003, American Society for Engineering Education

Smith, H. D., & Rieger, C., & Kanter, D., & Linsenmeier, R., & McKenna, A. (2003, June), Inquiry Based Laboratory Instruction Throws Out The "Cookbook" And Improves Learning Paper presented at 2003 Annual Conference, Nashville, Tennessee. 10.18260/1-2--11758

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