The Impact Of Collaborative Groups Versus Individuals In Undergraduate Inquiry-Based Astronomy Laboratory Learning Exercises
One of the long-standing general undergraduate education requirements common to many colleges and universities is a science course with a laboratory experience component. One of the objectives frequently included in the description of most of these courses is that a student will understand the nature and processes of scientific inquiry. However, recent research has shown that learners in traditional undergraduate science laboratory environments are not developing a sufficiently meaningful understanding of scientific inquiry. Recently, astronomy laboratory activities have been developed that intentionally scaffold a student from guided activities to open inquiry ones and preliminary results show that these laboratories are successful for supporting students to understand the nature of scientific inquiry (Slater, S., Slater, T. F., & Shaner, 2008). This mixed-method quasi-experimental study was designed to determine how students in an undergraduate astronomy laboratory increase their understanding of inquiry working in relative isolation compared to working in small collaborative learning groups. The introductory astronomy laboratory students in the study generally increased their understanding of scientific inquiry over the course of the semester and this held true similarly for students working in groups and students working individually in the laboratories. This was determined by the examining the change in responses from the pretest to the posttest administration of the Views of Scientific Inquiry (VOSI) survey, the increase in scores on laboratory exercises, and observations from the instructor. Because the study was successful in determining that individuals in the astronomy laboratory do as well at understanding inquiry as those who complete their exercises in small groups, it would be appropriate to offer these inquiry-based exercises in an online format.