GV professor awarded $1.1M grant for Target Inquiry program

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu
Professor Deborah Herrington

Courtesy Photo / gvsu.edu Professor Deborah Herrington

A $1.1 million, five-year grant was awarded to Deborah Herrington, a principal investigator of Target Inquiry and associate professor at Grand Valley State University, to expand the Target Inquiry program.

In 2006, Herrington worked with chemistry professor Ellen Yezierski to design Target Inquiry, a 2.5-year graduate program that helps improve the inquiry-based instruction in science classes in high schools surrounding GVSU, and to get the initial funding.

The classes are held at GVSU and taught by the faculty, though the program itself reaches high schools as far north as Montague, Mich., and as far south as Bloomingdale, Mich. The program allows teachers to improve their teaching and understanding of inquiry instruction, as opposed to the classic form of lecture/discussion instruction.

Inquiry instruction refers to the practice of building models that help students create textbook questions and conduct experiments that actual scientists do, as opposed to lecturing the students and having them conduct an experiment to verify what was said.

The grant given will go toward the expansion of teachings for chemistry teachers to other disciplines in science, such as biology, physics and geology, bringing in faculty in different disciplines of science to teach the courses. It also pays for the development of the new courses and provides the teachers with the ability to travel and present their research at conferences for educators.

Grant monies will also go toward collecting data to study the effectiveness of the program itself.

“Grand Valley is doing a great service to all the teachers in the area,” Herrington said.

The program helps the university build partnerships with the teachers. Herrington said that the program spreads awareness of the school and could potentially get more students into GVSU in the future.

“The program challenges us to constantly improve our teaching,” she said. “We also involve undergraduate students in the research… they learned a lot about inquiry instruction.”

Professors are using the same activities with GVSU graduate education students as with the high school teachers. Herrington said through this program, GVSU is producing high-quality teachers because they had the experience working with the program.

The next cohort of Target Inquiry will begin in January 2013 and will be expanding to Miami University in Ohio of 2013 as well.

“It is beyond what we envisioned, being able to expand… it just opens the doors to more exciting outcomes,” Herrington said.

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