Inquiry-based learning and a digital library in undergraduate science
Apedoe, Xornam Sellina
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There is a revolution in earth science education promoting a re-conceptualization of teaching and learning in the earth sciences. Advocates for change, recommend that earth science learning experiences should include the use of inquiry based learning, and emphasize the use of Internet resources. Digital libraries, which can provide instructors and their students with access to the same data and tools commonly used by scientists, are a promising new technology that presents unique opportunities for learning in inquiry-based learning environments in the geosciences. The focus of this dissertation research was on improving educational practices in an undergraduate geology course. This study examined the use of an inquiry-based learning curriculum, supported by use of a digital library, in an undergraduate geology laboratory. More specifically, the goals of this research were: (a) to provide a realistic description of how students engage in, and appropriate inquiry practices, (b) to explore the opportunities and obstacles presented by a digital library for supporting teaching and learning in an inquiry-based laboratory, and (c) to begin to delineate guidelines for helping instructors incorporate inquiry-based approaches in their undergraduate geoscience courses. This interpretive qualitative study utilized a layered case-study approach that included both an analysis of one macro-level case and cross-case analyses of several individuals. The macro-level case analysis, documented the implementation of a digital library into an inquiry-based geology course. The cross-case analyses of three individuals documented students’ appropriation of and participation in inquiry activities. Data collection procedures consistent with an interpretivist investigation employing qualitative methods such as direct observation, document analysis, and interviews were used to help address the research questions of interest. Results from this study suggest that although students were able to successfully engage and appropriate inquiry practices (e.g., giving priority to evidence), it was not without its challenges (e.g., a perceived lack of guidance). In addition, although both the instructor and students recognized a number of opportunities presented by digital libraries for supporting teaching and learning, they encountered a number of obstacles in their use of the digital library that discouraged them from taking advantage of the resources available.