Undergraduate student attitudes and perceptions toward low- and high-level inquiry exercise physiology teaching laboratory experiences

The purpose of this investigation was to compare student attitudes toward two different science laboratory learning experiences, specifically, traditional, cookbook-style, low-inquiry level (LL) activities and a high-inquiry level (HL) investigative project. In addition, we sought to measure and compare students' science-related attitudes and attitudes toward science. Students participated in 5 wk of LL activities followed by a 5-wk HL project. An open-ended survey administered at the end of the semester and analyzed by a χ(2)-test revealed that 1) students enjoyed the HL project more than the LL activities, 2) high-level inquiry did not have a negative effect on student motivation in the laboratory, and 3) students perceived that they learned more about physiology principles with the LL activities. Most students liked the HL project, particularly the independence, responsibility, freedom, and personal relevance. Of the students who did not like the HL project, many reported being uncomfortable with the lack of structure and guidance. Many students gained a more positive and realistic view about scientific research, often reporting an increased respect for science. Likert scale surveys administered before and after each 5-wk period showed no significant changes in student attitudes to scientific inquiry, adoption of scientific attitudes, enjoyment of science lessons, or motivation toward science when the three time points were compared. The findings in this study have helped to provide suggestions for better implementation of HL projects in the future.