A central goal of the Inquiry Course will be to inculcate the concept of “student as active learner” throughout the entire undergraduate experience.  Our undergraduates should not learn primarily as passive recipients of information, but as active participants in their education in order to better develop critical thinking and communication skills.

The following book was written by BHSc (Honours) students and is a very helpful resource in understanding Inquiry.

Choose Your Own Inquiry
Authors: R. Ai, M. Bhatt, S. Chevrier, R. Ciccarelli, R. Grady, V. Kumari, K. Li, N. Nazarli, H. Rahimi, J. Roberts, J. Sachs, A. Schepmyer, M. Wang and H. Wong.
BHSc (Honours) Program, Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
Publication date, August 2008
ISBN 0-7618-4092-3
University Press of America

What is Inquiry?

There are four elements in the following diagram that are central to the concept of inquiry: I, R, E and C. We will discuss the process with the groups but at this point you might pay particular attention to the arrows. We will introduce you to a problem area to provide the context in which to begin the process.

Problem Identification

The ability to ask good questions

Problem Solving

The ability to determine what needs to be learned in order to answer those questions, identify appropriate resources for learning, and use resources effectively

Peer Persuasion

The ability to report on and discuss what was learned

Essential Skills

We can translate the skills to encompass many things. In this course we will work with a short list that includes essential skills. None of the skills listed below will be perfected this term, or next term or in the next four years. This is the starting line. There is no finish line.

  1. Time management – setting priorities, managing time and staying on track
  2. Posing a good question and refining it
  3. Identifying sources of information – library, online indices, World Wide Web and interviewing experts
  4. Evaluating (critical thinking) and integrating information
  5. Using information to answer a question
  6. Communication skills – verbal, nonverbal and written
  1. Working with another person and a group
    • Identifying individual and group strengths and weaknesses
    • Dividing responsibility
    • Following through
    • Teaching each other and learning from each other
    • Giving and receiving constructive feedback
    • Dealing with minor conflict
  2. Evaluating your strengths and weaknesses in each area – formally, informally and often

Why Inquiry?

The skills that are most widely sought in university graduates – the capacities to research and analyze complex problems and to communicate easily and effectively about them – are fundamental to all disciplines. The trend to emphasize the development of analysis and inquiry skills began in professional schools and is now spreading to other disciplines. At McMaster, we have defined these skills to include:

  • The ability to ask good questions
  • The ability to determine what needs to be learned in order to answer those questions
  • The ability to identify appropriate resources for learning
  • The ability to use resources effectively and to report on what was learned
  • The ability to self-evaluate

Inquiry Group

The Group was brought together in the summer of 2000 to develop the curriculum for Year One of a new undergraduate Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) degree programme. Participants self-identified and in truth, no one connected with this nomination is required to participate at any level. We set goals and sketched a framework for Year One. We began to meet at 7:30 am, once per week, to share experiences and examine our activities. At the end of Year One, we held a three day retreat with students and staff and reflected on the experience and refined the goals. The goals are still being refined. We still meet for breakfast at 7:30 am and we have held two to three retreats per year, always with students.

The group developed a learning space for student success and recruited a doctoral candidate to formally study what we were doing; she also teaches. Some of what we do changes by discussion but we try to ensure that the discussion is evidence-based. The vision was to set a framework for students that dealt with competencies required of self-directed, lifelong learners who would have effective group skills. As we progressed, the group took responsibility for integration of the Year One pedagogy into each of the next three years of the programme; effectively, skill development across courses and years. In their final year, students join us as peer tutors and close the circle of reflection in that they are now also facilitators.

We have engaged in serious reflection, team teaching, working with instructors from other programmes to allow them to take the experience back to home departments, and persistent, scholarly examination of what we do. Perhaps in part, we are informed, in that all of us had or have, significant struggles with the same skill set (i.e. group work, time management, self-evaluation, following through), are able to recognize the concerns and solutions and are able to facilitate the development of each other and students. The product of the group is truly a learning community.

“Section B: The Nature of the Collaboration” taken from the B.H.Sc Program Instructors’ submission for The Alan Blizzard Award and President’s Award.

The 2005 President’s Award

“This award recognizes the contribution of an individual, or of a group, to education through innovation and achievement in the design of a course or program of studies, or in the design of educational materials.”


The 2005 Alan Blizzard Award

“The Alan Blizzard Award was established to encourage, identify, and publicly recognize those whose exemplary collaboration in university teaching enhances student learning. The Award seeks to make visible and disseminate scholarship of teaching and learning, based on values and practices of collaborative teaching.”

The Inquiry Group consists of an experienced team of curriculum developers and facilitators of Level I Inquiry, Psychobiology and Peer Tutoring and Collaboration.

  • Shahad Al-Saqqar
  • Hartley Jafine
  • Jennifer Landicho
  • Rosanna Morales
  • Jennifer Nash
  • Stash Nastos
  • Debbie Nifakis
  • Melissa Phachanhla
  • Margaret Secord
  • Bob Spree

Inquiry Courses

This course will initiate the development of a skill set required for life-long learning, in the context of the study of one or two health care issues. A problem based course applying principles of scientific inquiry to selected health issues.
Three hours; two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in the B.H.Sc. (Honours) program
Antirequisite(s): HTHSCI 1E03, 1EE3, HTHSCI 2D06 A/B, INQUIRY 1SC3
Note: Students entering the B.H.Sc. (Honours) program after completion of Level I in another program may be required to complete HTHSCI 2D06 A/B at the discretion of the Assistant Dean of the program.

This course will use an inquiry based format to introduce key concepts in biochemistry, molecular biology and biomedical sciences to understand illnesses such as infectious diseases, metabolic disorders, genetic diseases and cancer.
One term
Prerequisite(s): HTHSCI 1I06 A/B

This course will use an inquiry-based approach. First semester will initiate the development of a skill set required for life-long learning by studying healthcare issues. Second semester will introduce key concepts in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology to understand genetic, infectious and metabolic diseases.
Three hours; two terms
Prerequisite(s): Permission of the Assistant Dean, B.H.Sc. (Honours) program
Antirequisite(s): HTHSCI 1E06 A/B , HTHSCI 2E03
Note: This course is restricted to Level II B.H.Sc. (Honours) transfer students only.

This course will cover health issues that are prevalent at certain times in the developmental cycle. Topics will include reproduction, global health, health of children and adolescents, adulthood, and health care issues in the elderly.
One term
Prerequisite(s): HTHSCI 2D06 A/B  or HTHSCI 2E03  and registration in Level III of the B.H.Sc. (Honours) program; or registration in Level III of the B.H.Sc. (Honours) Specializations

An opportunity to explore one or more specialized areas of Health Sciences in preparation for Level IV Senior Project/Thesis.
One term
Prerequisite(s): Registration in Level III B.H.Sc. (Honours) program or registration in Level III of the B.H. Sc. (Honours) Specializations.
Antirequisite(s): HTHSCI 3H06 A/B

An opportunity to explore one or more specialized areas of Health Sciences in preparation for Level IV Senior Project/Thesis.
One term or two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in Level III B.H.Sc. (Honours) program or registration in Level III of the B.H. Sc. (Honours) Specializations and permission of B.H.Sc. (Honours) program.
Antirequisite(s): HTHSCI 3H03 A/B

A thesis-based research project conducted under the direction and supervision of a member of the Faculty. Arrangements to register in HTHSCI 4A09 A/B, including agreement of the supervisor, must be made before the end of March in Level III.
Two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in B.H.Sc. (Honours) program and permission of B.H.Sc. (Honours) Program
Antirequisite(s): BIOLOGY 4F06 A/B, 4C12 A/B, HTHSCI 4B06 A/B, 4A12 A/B, 4A15 A/B, MOLBIOL 4G12 A/B, PHARMAC 4F09, PSYCH 4E09
Not open to students with credit or registration in BIOCHEM 4P03.

A thesis-based research project conducted under the direction and supervision of a member of the Faculty. Arrangements to register in HTH SCI 4A12, including agreement of the supervisor, must be made before the end of March in Level III.
Two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in B.H.Sc. (Honours) program and permission of B.H.Sc. (Honour) Program
Antirequisite(s): BIOLOGY 4F06 A/B, 4C12 A/B, HTHSCI 4B06 A/B S, 4A09 A/B, 4A15 A/B, MOLBIOL 4G12 A/B, PHARMAC 4F09, PSYCH 4E09
Not open to students with credit or registration in BIOCHEM 4P03.

A thesis-based research project conducted under the direction and supervision of a member of the Faculty. Arrangements to register in HTH SCI 4A15, including agreement of supervisor must be made before the end of March in Level III.
Two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in B.H.Sc. (Honours) Program and permission of B.H.Sc. (Honours) Program
Antirequisite(s): BIOLOGY 4F06 A/B, 4C12 A/B, HTHSCI 4B06 A/B, 4A09 A/B, 4A12 A/B, MOLBIOL 4G12 A/B, PHARMAC 4F09, PSYCH 4D06, 4D09, 4E09
Not open to students with a credit or registration in BIOCHEM 4P03.
A selection of information-based research projects conducted under the supervision of one or more members of the Faculty. Arrangements to register in HTHSCI 4B06 A/B including agreement of supervisor must be made before the end of March in Level III.
Two terms
Prerequisite(s): Registration in B.H.Sc. (Honours) program and permission of B.H.Sc. (Honours) Program
Antirequisite(s): BIOLOGY 4F06 A/B, 4C12 A/B, HTHSCI 4A09 A/B, HTHSCI 4A12 A/B , HTHSCI 4A15 A/B, MOLBIOL 4G12 A/B, PHARMAC 4F09, PSYCH 4D06, 4D09, 4E09
Not open to students with credit or registration in BIOCHEM 4P03.

This course provides an opportunity for individual or small groups to integrate concepts from their undergraduate courses.
Prerequisite(s): Permission of the Assistant Dean, B.H.Sc. (Honours) program
HTH SCI 4D03 may be repeated, if on a different topic, to a total of six units.

This course provides an opportunity for individual or small groups to integrate concepts from their undergraduate courses.
Sessions arranged individually or in small groups; one term
Prerequisite(s): Permission of the Assistant Dean, B.H.Sc. (Honours) program
HTHSCI 4W03 may be repeated, if on a different topic, to a total of six units.