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“I use IBL in this course” may say more about an instructor’s beliefs than about their teaching


Inquiry-Based learning (IBL) is a fairly well-known term in the United States (US) describing a range of student-centered or active pedagogical approaches in mathematics. However, the ‘big tent’ definitions of IBL mean that there is much variation in IBL users’ instructional practices, variation which we set out to codify. Cluster analysis of self-reported data from a survey of postsecondary calculus instructors across the US reveals three instructional profiles among self-declared users of IBL: (a) heavy users of group work; (b) users of a variety of mixed approaches; and (c) heavy users of didactic lecture. The instructional profile of this third group is indistinguishable from that of calculus instructors who report never having heard of IBL. We further investigate the relationship of these instructional profiles to certain beliefs about teaching and learning. All groups agree that inquiry supports learning; the groups who spend a minority of time in didactic lecture disagree with statements that there are benefits to lecturing. Implications for research and adoption of IBL are discussed.

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  1. That 30% of our participants declare that they use IBL suggests increased usage of the approach in the last five years. Though not directly comparable, university mathematics departments reported IBL was in use in 3% of their Calculus 1 courses (Apkarian, N., & Kirin, D. 2017).


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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos. 1726042, 1726281, 1726126, 1726328, 2028134.

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Correspondence to Estrella Johnson.

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 This material is based upon work supported by Evaluating the Uptake of Research-Based Instructional Strategies in Undergraduate Chemistry, Mathematics, & Physics is an NSF-funded (DUE Grant Nos. 1726042 , 1726281, 1726126, 1726328, 2028134). .

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Vishnubhotla, M., Chowdhury, A., Apkarian, N. et al. “I use IBL in this course” may say more about an instructor’s beliefs than about their teaching. Int. J. Res. Undergrad. Math. Ed. (2022).

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  • Instructional practices
  • Calculus
  • STEM
  • Individual characteristics