A scoping study investigating student perceptions towards inquiry based learning in the laboratory

There has been an increasing movement towards the introduction of inquiry based learning in undergraduate physiology laboratories. Students can however find this challenging when there is a sudden transition from traditional didacticpracticals to full inquiry based activities. One reason for this could be the students’ perceptions about the introduction of inquiry based learning. The aim of this preliminary scoping investigation was to judge students’ attitudes towards inquiry based learning following a practical containing an element of inquiry. Students were supplied with approximately 2.5cm gastrointestinal ileal loops from guinea-pigs which they connected via a force transducer to recording equipment. Students were also provided with 4 agonists and 4 antagonists for which they had to determine which antagonist paired with which agonist and which order to add the drugs. After the practical students completed a questionnaire and survey. Twenty nine percent of students strongly agreed and 54% agreed that detailed instructions should be given about how to carry out each practical. In answer to the statement I’d value the opportunity to design and carry out my own experiments, 12% strongly agreed, whilst 27% agreed and 48% were neutral. The commonest anxieties expressed by the students were that they would not understand the practical and not getting the right results. These findings suggest that considerable thought needs to be given as to how to best introduce physiology students to inquiry based practicals and that these student cohorts may benefit from some morescoping activities. Some ideas for these scoping activities are presented.