Students will have a range of investigation-based educational opportunities, ranging from inquiry-based teaching in more conventional courses to research-based courses. Faculty will use different models depending on the course goals. They will guide students (guided-inquiry) by giving them starting questions or prompting new directions with ideas and methods. Students may also conduct open-ended inquiry-projects. Here, the teacher acts as a facilitator for students who do the research as independently as possible (D'Avanzo and McNeal, in press). In the teacher-collaborative research the teacher works side-by-side with the students as a co-researcher. These investigations are "genuine" because the question is of interest to the research or general community, the outcome of the project is unknown to the students and to the teacher, and so the class is doing real research.
Investigation-based teaching is consistent with the recent reform efforts calling for changes in both what we teach and how we teach science (NRC, 1996). There is a new recognition that inquiry-is central to the process of science as well as to the learning of science. The best way to prepare future teachers is for them to do scientific research as undergraduates. Teachers are poorly prepared to teach students the process of science if they have not experienced it themselves.
In research-based courses students are scientists. They ask questions based on their own observations, interests and insights. They design experiments and collect and analyze data. They revise hypotheses and experiments in light of new data. In the process, undergraduates gain important insights about what science is (and what it is not) which they can pass on to their own students:
STEMTEC's courses will make use of inquiry-based teaching, which is directly related to constructivism because learners
actively construct their own knowledge. College faculty will learn how inquiry-laboratories are used in traditional courses such
as introductory biology (Lawson, et al., 1990; Sundberg and Moncada, 1994) and in entirely project-based courses
(D'Avanzo, 1996; D'Avanzo and McNeal, in press) and will apply these models to their own classes. The courses will also
include new kinds of inquiry-based labs with applications of educational technology such as BioQUEST. Students in our
program will also have a range of research-based courses to choose from. These courses will be discipline-based for science
and math majors and interdisciplinary for both these students and prospective elementary teachers. Some models already exist:
The Human Skeleton (focus is bones and disease; Hampshire), Hydrology (groundwater; Smith), and Unity of Science
(interdisciplinary; Mount Holyoke). STEMTEC will establish research-based courses on other campuses and in other fields.