This study examined the educational impact of an inquiry-focused textbook, Integrating Concepts in Biology ( ICB). Our findings support those of another study that found that performance of an ICB cohort also surpassed that of peers and suggest that the ICB textbook enables learning gains beyond those found using traditional content-focused textbooks.
The purpose of this study was to examine the educational impact of an intervention, the inquiry-focused textbook Integrating Concepts in Biology ( ICB), when used in a yearlong introductory biology course sequence. Student learning was evaluated using three published instruments: 1) The Biology Concept Inventory probed depth of student mastery of fundamental concepts in organismal and cellular topics when confronting misconceptions as distractors. ICB students had higher gains in all six topic categories (+43% vs. peers overall, p < 0.01). 2) The Biology Card Sorting Task assessed whether students organized biological ideas more superficially, as novices do, or based on deeper concepts, like experts. The frequency with which ICB students connected deep-concept pairs, or triplets, was similar to peers; but deep understanding of structure/function was much higher (for pairs: 77% vs. 25%, p < 0.01). 3) A content-focused Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) posttest compared ICB student content knowledge with that of peers from 15 prior years. Historically, MCAT performance for each semester ranged from 53% to 64%; the ICB cohort scored 62%, in the top quintile. Longitudinal tracking in five upper-level science courses the following year found ICB students outperformed peers in physiology (85% vs. 80%, p < 0.01).