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The Micro Assignment Guided Inquiry and Collaboration (MAGIC) method: A qualitative discussion of the benefits of active learning through scaffolded assignments in upper-level physics and mathematics

Journal of College Science Teaching—May/June 2024 (Volume 53, Issue 3)

By R.F. Malenda, S. Talbott, and Scott Walck

In this article, we discuss Micro Assignment Guided Inquiry and Collaboration (MAGIC), an active learning method that draws on the merits of inquiry-based learning in STEM courses. We describe the use of Micro Assignments (MAs) consisting of a series of short, instructive guiding questions that scaffold the course material. Students work through these questions and present solutions to the class. The instructor facilitates learning as well as collaboration amongst the students during face-to-face interactions, providing the Guided Inquiry and Collaboration (GIC). Here we present a qualitative discussion about this active learning approach that achieves some of the documented benefits such as deep student engagement with material and familiarity with communicating arguments. In addition, this method helps develop skills students need as they move from lower to upper-level courses such as collaboration, active reading, and breaking down involved assignments and problems into manageable steps. Through GIC and use of the MAs, the instructor guides students to become more abstract thinkers who desire evidence, evaluate arguments, and no longer follow step-by-step formulas but rather produce logical thought processes.

Inquiry Instructional Materials Mathematics Physics Teaching Strategies Postsecondary

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