Grants Awarded for Inquiry-Based Learning

The Office of Inquiry-Based Learning annually awards departments/units that oversee the curriculum of a major, area major, or interdisciplinary major/minor two types of competitive grants from the Inquiry-Based Learning Fund: 1) Planning Grants of up to $10,000 and 2) Development and Enhancement Grants of up to $30,000. Grants are intended to fund integration of experiential inquiry and research into the undergraduate curriculum. For more information and to apply, see the description of the Grants available and apply on the Creative Ventures Funds website.

Also, see the Frequently Asked Questions about grants and link to the resources for applications.

The following departments received awards:

Planning Grants


The focus of the Department of History will be to assess the scaffolding of learning through their curriculum with a focus on progression towards independent research. Through the work of a graduate fellow, the department will identify challenges and potential approaches to expand experiential learning through integration of travel into course curriculum and preparation for research in foreign languages. A fellow will also focus on development of and mentorship in research assistantships and internships as opportunities for students to participate in inquiry-based learning. These efforts synergize with a recent shift towards a research-driven curriculum for this department.

Physics & Astronomy

The Department of Physics & Astronomy will explore the use of wireless sensor devices to create an inquiry-based approach to introductory and upper-level physics labs. Small mobile devices will give students a broad set of tools, allowing students to design an experimental approach to demonstrate understanding of crucial topics in introductory physics. In upper level labs, students will be challenged to use these modules to develop a physics experiment from conception to analysis. Faculty members will attend workshops focused on reforming laboratory courses using these sensor devices to guide their deployment.

Political Science

With a mission to emphasize both skills-based and substantive outcomes, the Department of Political Science will implement scaffolded inquiry-based learning through existing and new courses. The department will map inquiry-based learning within their curriculum to identify key areas to enhance student preparation for research seminar courses and to meet the goals identified for the undergraduate curriculum. Changes that will be considered are inquiry-based learning modules in several courses, piloting a course designed for inquiry, and changes to curricular requirements.


The Department of Psychology seeks to increase the participation of talented students in supervised research and completion of honors theses. To do this a graduate fellow will evaluate the curriculum to identify gaps that prevent students from acquiring appropriate background and skills to participate in research. The fellow will also identify bottlenecks in identifying research supervisors to support these students. To increase student exposure to pathways to research, a one-credit course will introduce students to faculty research and a poster session will highlight ongoing student research in the department.

Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies

Efforts in the Department of Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American Studies will enhance experiential learning and inquiry that has been developing through recent curricular revisions. Inquiry-based learning is necessary for gaining expertise in navigating language at sophisticated levels; therefore, the department will work with a graduate fellow who will map inquiry within the curriculum to identify courses that support development towards research opportunities. The department also seeks to expand research categories, and they will support a teaching assistant to guide and mentor students in site-specific research during travel.


A planning grant in Anthropology seeks to understand how to help students bridge the knowledge and skills gained in foundational coursework and comprehensive, open-ended questions. A goal of this work is to provide opportunities for students to practice inquiry-based skills in advance of capstone and thesis work.

Cognitive Science

A Planning Grant awarded to Cognitive Science takes on the interesting challenge of assessing the pathways of inquiry-based learning in an interdisciplinary major.

Development and Enhancement Grants


The Department of BioSciences will enhance inquiry provided in the curriculum to ensure that all students receive inquiry-based training regardless of the course path they select. These efforts will support client-based research in teaching laboratories and develop strategies to incorporate faculty research in teaching environments. Research advisors will work with a graduate fellow to develop a companion to independent research courses to provide communication training and opportunities for reflection, which would help students to be more intellectually engaged in research. In selected lecture-based courses, they will focus on communication of science as a facet of inquiry and the collaborative nature of learning about science and making scientific discoveries.

Electrical and Computer Engineering

The scaffolding of instruction in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering will extend the academic design experience beyond a single semester. Modules to create, verify, test, and improve computing systems will be developed that can stand alone or be incorporated within courses. The department will also modify course pre-requisites to allow students to contribute earlier to team-based research through Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP). VIP teams will be supported directly by furnishing funds to purchase necessary supplies and providing teaching assistants to monitor and identify areas for targeted instruction to enhance research and design.

Electrical and Computer Engineering, Physics & Astronomy, and Bioengineering

Integration of communication instruction and coaching in team-based research courses will be implemented and assessed. This grant also marks the expansion of the Vertically Integrated Projects model to two new departments.

Political Science

Following up on analysis of the curriculum, the Department of Political Science implemented a course focused on political science research methods that engaged students in practicing each of the OURI Student Learning Outcomes.


During the Planning Grant award year, assessment pointed to a need for early exposure to faculty research in Psychology. The Department of Psychology extends their work by introducing course changes that give students exposure to ongoing projects. In addition, efforts will increase inquiry-based teaching in the classroom through faculty development and resources for course-based projects.

Engineering Design Minor

This grant focuses on instructional and physical materials necessary for electronics prototyping. Surveys and compsrison of student products over multiple semesters will be used to assess the effectiveness of the resources in helping students to gain experience and independence with this methodology.

Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Efforts to integrate inquiry-based learning in CHBE include diverse approaches. A flipped classroom model will be implemented to allow exploration of inquiry actiities within courses. In addition, laboratory experiments were redesigned to give students open-ended questions or methodology choices and teaching assistants training was provided for working with inquiry-based lab experiments.