Yesterday, I was part of a panel discussion about inquiry-based learning (IBL) at the Fall 2012 Indiana MAA Section Meeting. The other panelists included Robert Talbert (Grand Valley State University) and Mindi Capaldi (Valparaiso University). The panel was organized by the Indiana Section NExT, which is the Indiana version of the national Project NExT. Here is the abstract for the session:

We will discuss inquiry based learning, inverted classroom models, peer instruction, and other alternatives to lecture-based instruction. Panelists will give a brief intro of their experience in these areas, followed by an extended time of Q&A with the audience. This panel is open to all meeting participants.

You might be wondering how I ended up at the Indiana MAA Section Meeting. One of my Project NExT fellows, Lara Pudwell (Valparaiso University), sent me a message several weeks ago asking if I knew anyone near Indiana that would be interested in speaking on a panel about inquiry-based learning. I told her that I wasn’t anywhere near Indiana, but that I would love to be a part of the panel. Since I’m not swimming in travel money, I contacted Stan Yoshinobu (Cal Poly and Director of the Academy of Inquiry Based Learning) to see if the Visiting Speakers Bureau might be able to pay my way. Thankfully, my request for travel funding was approved. Woot! I’d like to thank AIBL and the Educational Advancement Foundation for funding these sorts of things.

The panel discussion was well-attended and it seemed to go very well. Each of the three panelist spoke for about 5-10 minutes and then the floor was opened to questions. The questions (during the session and later at lunch) covered a variety of topics, but as expected, people were interested in how to implement IBL in large classes and/or courses where coverage of a significant amount of content is a requirement. In my opinion, these are two of the biggest obstacles to adopting all sorts of effective and progressive teaching approaches. The obstacles are not insurmountable, but modifications (and compromises) of how I might run my upper-level proof-based classes must be made. I’ll try to write a post that addresses some potential strategies for dealing with large classes and the coverage issue.

Here are the slides for my portion of the panel discussion.

Dana C. Ernst

Mathematics & Teaching

  Northern Arizona University
  Flagstaff, AZ
  Google Scholar
  Impact Story

Current Courses

  MAT 411: Abstract Algebra
  MAT 690: Genome Combinatorics

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  Flagstaff and NAU sit at the base of the San Francisco Peaks, on homelands sacred to Native Americans throughout the region. The Peaks, which includes Humphreys Peak (12,633 feet), the highest point in Arizona, have religious significance to several Native American tribes. In particular, the Peaks form the Diné (Navajo) sacred mountain of the west, called Dook'o'oosłííd, which means "the summit that never melts". The Hopi name for the Peaks is Nuva'tukya'ovi, which translates to "place-of-snow-on-the-very-top". The land in the the area surrounding Flagstaff is the ancestral homeland of the Hopi, Ndee/Nnēē (Western Apache), Yavapai, A:shiwi (Zuni Pueblo), and Diné (Navajo). We honor their past, present, and future generations, who have lived here for millennia and will forever call this place home.