May 31, 2017

Discovery and Inquiry Courses

At Mason, we want to build students' capacity to evaluate research and/or prepare them to pursue their own research or creative projects, by teaching these skills during their undergraduate education.  Discovery of Scholarship courses are designed to introduce students to academic-level scholarly inquiry, and Scholarly Inquiry classes teach them to the skills to ask good research questions and find the resources to answer those questions.
We have recently updated and simplified the course descriptions and Student as Scholars rubric, based on faculty and student input. Mason's goal is that every department have opportunities for students to learn about and participate in undergraduate research and creative activities. "Taught" courses as well as individualized experiences can be identified. The revision more clearly highlights that that Discovery of Scholarship includes an understanding of the value of scholarly work that serves as a foundation for participating in Inquiry and in Research & Scholarship intensive experiences.

Discovery and Inquiry courses are identified in Mason's catalog, and listed on our website. We share this list with students to encourage enrollment!

All Students as Scholars courses are designed so that students can discover how they can engage in process of research, scholarship and creative activities. Courses should highlight:

  • How faculty are engaged in scholarly work
  • How undergraduate students are engaged in scholarly work
  • The connection between the course, Students as Scholars, and opportunities available through OSCAR and academic programs.
Biology students examine flowers on campus. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Submitting a Discovery or Inquiry course

Faculty are encouraged to use our guidelines to help shape their courses and curricula to incorporate these student learning outcomes. Please note that for a course to get the Discovery or Inquiry attribute, all sections of the course must meet the guidelines (although course topics, readings, etc may vary considerably).  To be included on our list of Discovery or Inquiry courses email OSCAR the following:

  • A syllabus that includes a student-oriented Students as Scholars statement describing how the course meets the expected learning outcomes,
  • A curriculum map showing how the course activities meet the required student learning outcomes, and
  • A letter of support from the chair indicating sustained support for all sections of the class being taught with the Students as Scholars Discovery or Inquiry learning outcomes addressed (added Fall 2014).

We accept Discovery and Inquiry courses on a rolling basis. If you already have a Curriculum Scholarship Development Grant, you can submit the materials as part of your year-end report, and we will add the classes over the summer.  Separate materials are not required unless you want the attribute for the spring semester.

If your program needs financial support to create or re-design courses to meet the Discovery or Inquiry outcomes, please apply for the Curriculum Scholarship Development Grant.  Preliminary applications are due in November to participate in the January 2017 workshop and apply for the full Curriculum SDG.

Discovery of Scholarship Courses

In Discovery experiences, students will understand the value of knowledge and how it is generated and communicated. The Discovery outcome will be covered in introductory courses in a major, general education courses, basic Introductory Composition (ENGL100/101), First-Year Seminar (UNIV100/300) courses, as well as experiences through OSCAR, University Libraries, and public outreach activities (e.g. TEDxGeorgeMason, art exhibits). Click here to view a list of Discovery of Scholarship courses.

Discovery experiences are encouraged to emphasize three student learning outcomes, meeting a minimum of the "Emerging Proficiency" level on the Students as Scholars rubric:

  • Distinguish between personal beliefs and evidence.
  • Explain how scholarly inquiry has value to society.
  • Explain how knowledge is situated and shared in relevant scholarly contexts.

Discovery courses may also include the following outcomes, at a minimum of the "emerging proficiency" level:

  • Articulate and refine a question, problem, or challenge.
  • Identify relevant ethical issues and follow ethical principles.
  • Choose an appropriate research method for scholarly inquiry.
  • Gather and evaluate evidence appropriate to the inquiry.
  • Appropriately analyze scholarly evidence.
  • Take responsibility for creating and executing an original scholarly or creative project.
  • Communicate knowledge from an original scholarly or creative project.

Scholarly Inquiry Courses

In Scholarly Inquiry courses, students learn about the recursive process of research and scholarship. We expect that they will learn content and skills that make them capable of evaluating scholarly work and may prepare them to conduct their own scholarly project. A scholarly inquiry class may be a research methods course in a discipline or a course that uses inquiry-guided learning to explore a topic. Click here to view a list of Scholarly Inquiry courses.
Students will need to demonstrate "Approaching Proficiency"-level accomplishments (see the Students-as-Scholars-Program-Rubric-September-2016) on the three required learning outcomes and on your choice of one of the other outcomes. That is, by the time they have finished the course or project, students will be able to:

  • Articulate a question, problem, or challenge that is generally relevant and appropriate in scope
  • Communicate knowledge from a scholarly or creative project through writing, presenting, or performing, employing some conventions appropriate to the audience and context.
  • Identify some relevant ethical issues; demonstrates some attention to ethical principles at some stages of the inquiry process.

AND, at least one additional Students as Scholars outcome at the "Approaching Proficiency" level:

  • Occasionally make accurate distinctions among personal beliefs, opinions, claims and evidence.
  • Sometimes choose effective methods for exploring an inquiry.
  • Acquire information or data using appropriate strategies; sometimes able to judge the credibility of the evidence.
  • Analyze or synthesize new and/or previous evidence appropriate to the inquiry.
  • Articulate a general understanding of the value of research and creative inquiry to individuals and communities in local, civic, professional, or global contexts. Identify some implications of, and questions raised by, the project.
  • Explain general pathways for dissemination of scholarship. Place the inquiry within a scholarly context and be able to make some connections between own and others' work.
  • Under the direction of a faculty mentor, design and execute a project plan.