Enhancing Hispanic Minority Undergraduates’ Botany Laboratory Experiences: Implementation of an Inquiry-based Plant Tissue Culture Module Exercise

  •  Dimuth Siritunga    
  •  Vivian Navas    
  •  Nanette Diffoot    


Early involvement of students in hands-on research experiences are known to demystify research and promote the pursuit of careers in science. But in large enrolment departments such opportunities for undergraduates to participate in research are rare. To counteract such lack of opportunities, inquiry-based laboratory module in plant tissue culture was implemented in an undergraduate botany course impacting approximately 140 Hispanic minority students per year. In this module, spread throughout the semester, the students used African violet to gain experience in plant tissue culture techniques. The objective was for the students to learn how to take part of the plant from in vivo to in vitro culture. This required the establishment of aseptic techniques and the use of different media components to multiply plants under in vitro conditions. In depth assessment of gain-of content knowledge and gain-of confidence revealed that our inquiry-based approach allowed the students to learn while increasing their self-perception of scientific methodology. In three semesters, the students reported a 2.5-fold overall increase in the post-module assessment for content knowledge compared to pre-module assessment. Similarly, approximately 85% of the students reported that they gained self-confidence in many aspects pertaining to conducting future research such as the use of primary literature, the design and performance of novel scientific experiments, and the formulation of a testable hypothesis. Though this lab module was solely in plant tissue culture, the inquiry-based nature of the exercise developed students’ research skills and built confidence which is important in increasing retention of students in sciences.

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