Open inquiry in bachelor’s science lab courses: methods and materials

Project to improve learning outcomes in science lab courses through use of student open inquiries.  By giving students agency and responsibility in all phases of the empirical research process, open inquiries improve their critical and scientific thinking, their self-efficacy as researchers, and their understandings of the nature of science.

Onderzoeker die twee buisjes met gekleurde vloeistof omhoog houdt in lab

The project supports a Community of Practice dedicated to science lab education which spanned instructors and researchers from five different departments and three universities.  This team compared, tested, and adapted their open inquiry teaching practices, and then shared their methods and materials via open-access online publications.


University of Amsterdam (leader), Leiden University, TU Eindhoven and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.

Goal and Target Group

This project’s over-arching goal was to improve experimental natural science education at the bachelor’s level.  Targeting empirical research skills, the team focused on open inquiry teaching methods whereby students conceive of their own research questions, design their experimental methods and analyses, and communicate their plans, progress & conclusions to peers and teachers.  Teachers’ best practices for supporting these student open inquires were identified and explained through a combination of education research and the discussions within the Community of Practice.  Finally, recognizing that no two courses will be identical, the team has drawn up general principles to help other instructors in adapting such methods in their own contexts.  These best practices and general principles were disseminated via an online playbook and articles in disciplinary (teaching) association media and education research journals (in preparation).

The first year of the project focused on internal dissemination and innovation within the diverse project team, spanning bachelor’s lab courses in (applied) physics, biomedical sciences, and interdisciplinary natural sciences.  The second project year focused on external dissemination, with the goal of inspiring and supporting others in adapting open inquiry teaching practices.


The project team found striking similarities in some aspects of how student open inquiries are successfully supported across lab courses in the natural sciences.  Studying the similarities across different programs and disciplines elucidated best practices and guiding principles, while studying the differences between various open inquiry implementations showed a rich variety of contexts and styles.

The project results included open-access publication of materials and interactive dissemination.  Four entire collections of course materials show how similar teaching methods are practiced across the natural sciences.  Additionally, the team’s playbook helps others in adopting and adapting open inquiry as a didactical form in their own science lab courses, according to their students’ backgrounds and course learning objectives.  And the interactive dissemination included workshops and presentations at teaching and research conferences, peer-reviewed education research articles, and various intra-institution initiatives. 

Developed materials

The course materials from four open inquiry lab courses can be found in Edusources.

While the playbook for adopting and adapting open inquiry practices can be found in Wikiwijs.


Contact for questions

Forrest Bradbury, Amsterdam University College -

Incentive scheme open and online education

This is a project from round 2022 of the open and online education incentive scheme.