We present a model for the process of redesigning the laboratory curriculum in Introductory Organismal Biology to increase opportunities for meaningful inquiry and increase student recognition of their scientific skill development. We created scaffolded modules and assignments to allow students to build and practice key skills in experimental design, data analysis, and scientific writing. Using the Tool for Interrelated Experimental Design, we showed significantly higher gains in experimental design scores in the redesigned course and a more consistent pattern of gains across a range of initial student scores compared with the original format. Students who completed the redesigned course rated themselves significantly higher in experimental design, data collection, and data analysis skills compared with students in the original format. Scores on the Laboratory Course Activity Survey were high for both formats and did not significantly differ. However, on written course evaluations, students in the redesigned course were more likely to report that they engaged in “real science” and their “own experiments.” They also had increased recognition of their specific analytical and writing skill development. Our results demonstrate that intentional, scaffolded instruction using inquiry modules can increase experimental design skills and sense of scientific ability in an introductory biology course.
What faculty do and say on the first day of class is crucial to establishing and maintaining an inclusive learning environment for the duration of the semester. First-day information sheets (“info sheets”) are commonly used by instructors. By making simple modifications to this tool, we can gather more information about the goals and experiences of our students, the lives of our students outside of our classroom, and how our students’ lives may impact their engagement with the course material and course structure. We can also use this information to actively highlight to students that their full selves (names, pronouns, background) belong in our biology classroom. We provide a set of prompts and suggested steps, rooted in the scholarly literature, to encourage and facilitate faculty use of info-sheets as a valuable tool to inform semester-long inclusive teaching efforts.