Inquiry-Based Learning at Minnesota’s University of St. Thomas

By Robert J. Werner.

Published by The Learner Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul, Minnesota (USA) is engaged in a six-year effort to raise undergraduates’ thinking skills through Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) and faculty/student collaboration. IBL is seen as any pedagogy that poses a problem or investigation first, and subsumes other instruction under the pursuit of the quest. IBL is most frequently practiced within the framework of a college course. Faculty/student collaboration is typically outside of a course, and involves undergraduate students doing research and scholarship while working closely with a professor. The paper describes several IBL courses and their assessment results. Arguments are given about why IBL raises students’ thinking skills, and the cases describe how the pedagogy is applied. The cases are drawn from biology, philosophy, computer science, and theology. Faculty/student collaboration in research and scholarship is supported by two grant programs that fund both students and faculty for work during the semester or over the summer. Responses from students indicate that such collaborations are excellent education. A bi-annual student poster session where that collaborative work is presented has been highly successful.

Keywords: Inquiry-Based Learning, Faculty/Student Collaboration, Undergraduate Education

The International Journal of Learning, Volume 14, Issue 1, pp.51-56. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 546.112KB).

Dr. Robert J. Werner

Professor, Geography, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

My training in geography is primarily in Geographic Information Systems. I also teach regional geography courses, including World, Latin America, and East & Southeast Asia. I also write and manage grants in support of undergraduate education at my institution. My most recent effort is an Archibald Bush Foundation grant to implement Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) and to support faculty/student collaboration. This is a six-year effort over the period 2002-08. IBL is any pedagogy that poses a problem or investigation, and subsumes other instruction under the pursuit of that quest. To support IBL, I have taught or helped teach several faculty-development workshops on IBL examples and assessment of IBL pedagogy.

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