Inquiry-based learning to improve student engagement in a large first year topic

  • Masha Smallhorn Flinders University
  • Jeanne Young Flinders University
  • Narelle Hunter Flinders University
  • Karen Burke da Silva Flinders University


Increasing the opportunity for students to be involved in inquiry-based activities can improve engagement with content and assist in the development of analysis and critical thinking skills. The science laboratory has traditionally been used as a platform to apply the content gained through the lecture series. These activities have exposed students to experiments which test the concepts taught but which often result in a predicted outcome. To improve the engagement and learning outcomes of our large first year biology cohort, the laboratories were redeveloped. Superlabs were run with 100 students attending weekly sessions increasing the amount of contact time from previous years. Laboratories were redeveloped into guided-inquiry and educators facilitated teams of students to design and carry out an experiment. To analyse the impact of the redevelopment on student satisfaction and learning outcomes, students were surveyed and multiple choice exam data was compared before and after the redevelopment. Results suggest high levels of student satisfaction and a significant improvement in student learning outcomes. All disciplines should consider including inquiry-based activities as a methodology to improve student engagement and learning outcome as it fosters the development of independent learners.


Jul 9, 2015
How to Cite
SMALLHORN, Masha et al. Inquiry-based learning to improve student engagement in a large first year topic. Student Success, [S.l.], v. 6, n. 2, p. 65-71, july 2015. ISSN 2205-0795. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 16 july 2018. doi:
Emerging Initiatives


inquiry-based learning, critical thinking, first year experience, student engagement,
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