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Dr. Stacey L. MacKinnon, Associate Professor (Psychology), UPEI

For the last three years I have coordinated First Year Inquiry Studies, leading a
reconceptualization and redesign of one of UPEI’s three possible graduation requirement courses. When I agreed to lead this project it included support from the VP Academic/Research to conduct research on the program and its effectiveness. To this end I have been coordinating a diverse group of professors from across campus as we teach four sections of this course each year. In the past three years this group has included professors from Psychology, Religious Studies, Chemistry, Financial Accounting, Education, English and Physics to develop, refine, teach and research our students’ attitudes toward and skills in inquiry. Our team also includes a graduate student assistant and several senior undergraduate student volunteers who work with us and the students to facilitate both their theoretical learning and hands-on expansion of their inquiry skills.

The content and approach to this course was predicated on my work in designing, implementing and researching my students’ learning experience “The Curiosity Project” over the past eight years. In this project, I have coordinated the individual, semester-long, inquiry-based learning projects for over 700 second and third year students and trained/supervised the more than 73 volunteer senior undergraduate learning facilitators (all but two of whom had previously been students in the project themselves). The success of this project has led to its adaptation and adoption in several others faculties and departments across UPEI including biology, English and applied human services.

This work has been presented at the 2014 Association of Atlantic Universities Teaching showcase where six of my undergraduate facilitators hosted a workshop on “The Curiosity Project” for university professors from across the region, the 2016 AAU Teaching Showcase, and the 2017 International Society for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning Conference in Calgary, AB. In addition to my own individual research in this area (MacKinnon, 2017), four of my students have conducted individual research on curiosity and inquiry (i.e., directed studies projects, honours/masters thesis) which have been
presented at peer reviewed conferences: one is already published (Boyle & MacKinnon, 2016) and three are in preparation (MacKinnon & Boyle; MacLeod & MacKinnon; McCloud & MacKinnon). A fifth student project creating an inquiry studies handbook for students is slated for completion in May 2019.

Dr. Beth Archer-Kuhn

Dr. Archer-Kuhn brings twenty-five years of experience in social work practice prior to returning for doctoral work and a new career in academia. Her knowledge of the value of relationship and commitment to social justice positioned her well for a research agenda focused on participant voice. Dr. Archer-Kuhn has recently completed a two-year, seven cohort mixed methods study to show the ways in which undergraduate and graduate students join with faculty as partners in the process of their learning through inquiry. The project has yielded three manuscripts: 1) a literature review on inquiry-based learning in higher education; 2) a reflection paper on the student experience with inquiry on a Group Study Program; and 3) a mixed-methods study that links IBL with student/faculty partnerships. Additionally, the project included two IBL research symposiums; one for students and one for faculty.

Our Collaboration

Our passion for curiosity and inquiry, led to our current collaboration and resulted in our very successful February 2017 student-led conference on inquiry-based learning at the University of Calgary and follow-up collaborative endeavor “Curiosity and Inquiry Based Learning in Higher Education: A Working Conference” which was held in October 2017. Three of Dr. MacKinnon’s UPEI Curiosity Project/Inquiry Studies students accompanied her to Calgary to share their work and create ongoing research partnerships. Dr. Archer-Kuhn and Dr. MacKinnon also presented the findings from the student-led gathering at the June 2017 Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education conference in
Halifax, NS. We have demonstrated success in bringing together emerging scholars from across Canada and in relatively diverse fields to engage in discussion about inquiry from both a theoretical and practical perspective and we look forward to expanding this “working conference” to established researchers and practitioners across faculties and indeed the globe by creating both face to face and virtual research opportunities with the help of this SSHRC connection grant, the UPEI Internal Research Grant program, and the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.