Development of a semester-long, inquiry-based laboratory course in upper-level biochemistry and molecular biology

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© 2014 The American Chemical Society and Division of Chemical Education, Inc. A semester-long laboratory course was designed and implemented to familiarize students with modern biochemistry and molecular biology techniques. The designed format involved active student participation, evaluation of data, and critical thinking, and guided students to become independent researchers. The first part of the course focused on introducing students to common biochemical techniques through a series of open-ended experiments, and the latter part culminated in an original research project. Students defined a problem from a list of suggested projects or one suggested by students, if appropriate. The course was designed to incorporate elements of hypothesis development, project design, teamwork, and communication skills. Each group of students performed experiments under different sets of conditions and all student groups shared results at the end of the lab exercise. A novel aspect of the course was the post-lab presentation and discussion session (PDS) later in the week. During PDS, students presented, interpreted, and discussed their data. In addition, by integrating individual and group results, a more complete picture of the subject was developed by students. The course also encouraged students to combine knowledge gained from previous chemistry courses, and thus, it serves as a capstone course. Formative assessment and instructors' observations guided changes to the course over three years. Assessment of the course impact using faculty assessment of learning outcomes and student self-report data indicated that the course had met its objectives of improving learning goals, such as hypothesis development, project design, and critical thinking.

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Journal of Chemical Education