This comprehensive study examines student outcomes of inquiry-based learning (IBL) in undergraduate mathematics and links these outcomes to students’ and instructors’ experiences of IBL. Based at four research universities that have been developing IBL courses, the mixed-methods study examines outcomes including skills, cognitive gains, attitudes and beliefs, and education and career paths. The study also seeks to understand how these outcomes come about, using a combination of surveys, classroom observations, interviews, tests, and student academic records. Finally, we are examining the recruitment and participation of IBL instructors, their professional development, and the institutionalization of these approaches in their departments.
On this page:
Laursen, S. L., Hassi, M.-L., & Hough, S. (2016). Implementation and outcomes of inquiry-based learning in mathematics content courses for pre-service teachers. International Journal of Mathematical Education in Science and Technology, 47(2), 256-275. Published online 25 July 2015. doi: 10.1080/0020739X.2015.1068390 Abstract
Laursen, S. L., Hassi, M.-L., Kogan, M., & Weston, T. J. (2014). Benefits for women and men of inquiry-based learning in college mathematics: A multi-institution study. Journal of Research in Mathematics Education, 45(4), 406-418. Abstract
Laursen, S. L. (2013). From innovation to implementation: Multi-institution pedagogical reform in undergraduate mathematics. In D. King, B. Loch, L. Rylands (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th DELTA conference on the teaching and learning of undergraduate mathematics and statistics, Kiama, New South Wales, Australia, 24-29 November 2013. Sydney: University of Western Sydney, School of Computing, Engineering and Mathematics, on behalf of the International Delta Steering Committee.
Kogan, M., & Laursen, S. L. (2014). Assessing long-term effects of inquiry-based learning: A case study from college mathematics. Innovative Higher Education, 39(3), 183-199 (published online August 13, 2013). DOI 10.1007/s10755-013-9269-9. Open access
Laursen, S., & Hassi, M.L. (2012). Outcomes of inquiry-based learning for pre-service teachers: A multi-site study. In (Eds.) S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, and M. Oehrtman, Proceedings of the 15th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, pp. 88-94, Portland, Oregon.
Hassi, M.-L., Kogan, M., & Laursen, S. L. (2011). Student outcomes from inquiry-based college mathematics courses: Benefits of IBL for students from under-served groups. In (Eds.) S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, and M. Oehrtman, Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, Vol. 3, pp. 73-77, Portland, Oregon.
Laursen, S., Hassi, M.-L., & Hunter, A.-B. (2011). Navigating the straits: Critical instructional decisions in inquiry-based college mathematics classes. In (Eds.) S. Brown, S. Larsen, K. Marrongelle, and M. Oehrtman, Proceedings of the 14th Annual Conference on Research in Undergraduate Mathematics Education, Vol. 3, pp. 101-104, Portland, Oregon.
Hassi, M.-L. (2009). Empowering undergraduate students through mathematical thinking and learning. In G. Fitzsimons (Ed.), A Declaration of Numeracy: Empowering Adults through Mathematics Education, Proceedings of the 15th International Conference of Adults Learning Mathematics (ALM), 53-69. Lancaster, PA: DEStech Publications.
Hassi M.-L., & Laursen, S. (2009). Studying undergraduate mathematics: Exploring students' beliefs, experiences and gains. In S.L. Swars, D.W. Stinson, & S. Lemons-Smith (eds.), Proceedings of the 31st Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education (PME-NA), pp.113-121. Atlanta, GA: Georgia State University.
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Laursen, S. (2015, June). From innovation to implementation: Multi-institution pedagogical reform in undergraduate mathematics. A summary of research results. Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research. A two-page digest of key findings
Assessment & Evaluation Center for Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics (2011). Evaluation of the IBL Mathematics Project: Student and Instructor Outcomes of Inquiry-Based Learning in College Mathematics. (Report to the Educational Advancement Foundation and the IBL Mathematics Centers) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.
Study methods - all appendices
Appendix A1 - Overview of Research Methods for the Mixed-Methods Study
Appendix A2 - Study Methods: Classroom Observation
Appendix A3 - Study Methods: Student Surveys
Appendix A4 - Study Methods: Linking Classroom Observation and Student Survey Data
Appendix A5 - Study Methods: Mathematics Tests
Appendix A6 - Study Methods: Student Academic Records
Appendix A7 - Study Methods: Student and Instructor Interviews
Assessment & Evaluation Center for Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics (2009). (Reports to the IBL Mathematics Project) Boulder, CO: University of Colorado Boulder, Ethnography & Evaluation Research.
Inquiry Brief 1: Validation of mathematical proofs. First findings from a proof test.
Inquiry Brief 2: Mathematical knowledge for teaching. First findings from MKT measures of students’ cognitive gains.
Inquiry Brief 3: Differences between IBL and non-IBL classroom practices. First findings from observations of classroom activity, leadership, and questioning behaviors.
Inquiry Brief 4: Variations in classroom practice among IBL courses. First findings from observations of classroom activity, leadership, and questioning behaviors.
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In related work, we are evaluating professional development workshops that support college mathematics instructors in using inquiry-based learning in their own courses. For our most recent reports, visit this page.
Interested in inquiry-based learning in math? We recommend the following resources:
- The SALG-M is a form of the Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) survey instrument that is customized for undergraduate mathematics courses. We have used this survey to examine students' learning gains across a range of cognitive, affective, and social domains (e.g. Hassi & Laursen, 2009) and are making it available to instructors and researchers. To examine or use the SALG-M, please download these instructions and visit salgsite.org to set up and customize a copy for your own use.
Ways to Learn about IBL Teaching
- The Academy of Inquiry Based Learning (AIBL) supports mathematics instructors in applying inquiry-based learning within their own classrooms and building a practitioner community.
- The Legacy of R. L. Moore conference gathers practitioners of inquiry-based learning in mathematics annually.
- The Academy of Inquiry Based Learning also offers intensive summer workshops on IBL for college mathematics instructors.
- Several of the people who lead these workshops also blog about IBL instruction and related topics:
- The Greater Upstate New York IBL Consortium has gatherings and mentoring support for people in that area.
Materials for IBL Courses
- The Journal of Inquiry-Based Learning in Mathematics (JIBLM) publishes course notes that instructors can use to design an inquiry-based math course.
- Discovering the Art of Mathematics offers a variety of resources to support mathematical inquiry for non-STEM majors.
- The Mathematical Association of American publishes texts for and about inquiry-based learning in mathematics.
- Distilling Ideas: An Introduction to Mathematical Thinking, Katz & Starbird
- Number Theory through Inquiry, Marshall, Odell & Starbird
- The Moore Method: A Pathway to Learner-Centered Instruction, Coppin, Mahavier, May & Parker
- The IBL Mathematics Centers have shared some materials from courses they have developed.
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