Instructional Science

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 721–735 | Cite as

Redesigning a curriculum for inquiry: an ecology case study

  • R. A. Spronken-Smith
  • R. Walker
  • K. J. M. Dickinson
  • G. P. Closs
  • J. M. Lord
  • T. Harland


This article reports on an interdisciplinary ecology degree that was redesigned to provide more research activity for undergraduates. A case study approach explored how the teaching team constructed a curriculum that used inquiry activities. The development of an inquiry curriculum was enabled by a University audit focusing on the links between teaching and research, a Programme Review that signalled a need for change, and a Programme Director and group of academics committed to change. In addition, curriculum planning discussions were facilitated by an academic staff developer, who developed a shared vision for an inquiry approach during extended conversations amongst the planning group. Consequently, the new programme progressively develops inquiry skills in four out of five core courses (papers/modules). At stages 1 and 2, structured, guided and open inquiry activities lead to an open inquiry capstone course at stage 3.


Curriculum change Ecology Inquiry-based learning Undergraduate research 



This research was funded by a New Zealand Ministry of Education ‘Teaching Matters Forum’ grant under contract 3651-005/5.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. A. Spronken-Smith
    • 1
  • R. Walker
    • 1
  • K. J. M. Dickinson
    • 2
  • G. P. Closs
    • 2
  • J. M. Lord
    • 2
  • T. Harland
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Higher Education Development CentreUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Ecology Degree ProgrammeUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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