Developing critical thinking inSTEMeducation through inquiry-based writing in the laboratory classroom

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Jeon A., Kellogg D., Khan M. A. , Tucker-Kellogg G.

BIOCHEMISTRY AND MOLECULAR BIOLOGY EDUCATION, vol.49, no.1, pp.140-150, 2021 (Journal Indexed in SCI) identifier identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 49 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1002/bmb.21414
  • Page Numbers: pp.140-150
  • Keywords: active learning, assessment of educational activities, computational biology, genomics proteomics bioinformatics, inquiry based teaching, laboratory exercises, molecular biology, text mining, topic modeling, SCIENCE


Laboratory pedagogy is moving away from step-by-step instructions and toward inquiry-based learning, but only now developing methods for integrating inquiry-based writing (IBW) practices into the laboratory course. Based on an earlier proposal (Science 2011;332:919), we designed and implemented an IBW sequence in a university bioinformatics course. We automatically generated unique, double-blinded, biologically plausible DNA sequences for each student. After guided instruction, students investigated sequences independently and responded through IBW writing assignments. IBW assignments were structured as condensed versions of a scientific research article, and because the sequences were double blinded, they were also assessed as authentic science and evaluated on clarity and persuasiveness. We piloted the approach in a seven-day workshop (35 students) at Perdana University in Malaysia. We observed dramatically improved student engagement and indirect evidence of improved learning outcomes over a similar workshop without IBW. Based on student feedback, initial discomfort with the writing component abated in favor of an overall positive response and increasing comfort with the high demands of student writing. Similarly, encouraging results were found in a semester length undergraduate module at the National University of Singapore (155 students).