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Abstract

In this qualitative study, we describe and characterize the pedagogical decisions that three college instructors made to mitigate challenges they faced as they taught by inquiry, as well as the rationale for their decisions and their perceptions of the efficacy of their decisions. We found that instructors made a range of decisions, including reorganizing course content and structure, adding more opportunities for and models of inquiry practice, adding more opportunities for feedback and assessment, and enhancing scaffolding of the inquiry. Notably, single instructional decisions had the capacity to mitigate multiple challenges. The instructors were satisfied with many of their decisions, yet they continued to question the efficacy of certain decisions and to generate ideas for further changes to address their students’ and their own struggles with inquiry teaching. Although many of their decisions reflected the instructors’ responses to external factors, such as their students’ needs or the logistical constraints of their classes or institutions, other decisions reflected the instructors’ own development as teaching professionals. Our findings serve as concrete examples of how instructors can alleviate the challenges of inquiry teaching at the college level. Our results also highlight the need for appropriate instructional preparation and support for all students during inquiry teaching, regardless of their backgrounds or undergraduate majors.

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