POGIL is based on the biology of learning (e.g. Zull, 2002), and has been developed and validated over the last 15 years, primarily in chemistry education (e.g. Moog, Spencer, 2008). In POGIL, teams of learners (typically 3-4) work on scripted inquiry activities and investigations designed to help them construct their own knowledge, often by modeling the original processes of discovery and research. The teams follow processes with specific roles, steps, and reports that encourage individual responsibility and metacognition. POGIL activities and processes are designed to achieve specific learning objectives. The instructor serves as a facilitator, not a lecturer. Multiple studies have examined the effectiveness of POGIL, and generally find that POGIL significantly improves student outcomes.
Every teacher has pressure to cover more and more content each year. A POGIL activity often takes more time than a lecture on the same content, but as teachers we should focus on outputs (what is learned), not inputs (what is covered). Topics usually contain several related concepts; students who truly understand one key concept often find it much easier to learn related concepts. Many studies have found that POGIL students do better than lecture students, even on standardized exams and exams written by the lecture teacher.
Some teachers use POGIL in every class meeting; some use a combination of POGIL, lecture, and other techniques. Both approaches can be successful. It takes time for students to learn to work in teams and follow POGIL processes, so using POGIL only a few times during a term may not work well. For teachers new to POGIL, one activity per week may be a good start.
It often takes some time for students (and teachers) to adjust to POGIL elements and processes. Some teachers choose to start the term with an activity designed to introduce POGIL.
Normally, a POGIL activity leads students to invent or identify a new concept (not to review a concept already presented via lecture or reading). To be useful to other teachers, a POGIL activity should clearly identify prerequisite knowledge.
POGIL should be useful whenever students need to develop or understand key concepts, since POGIL uses the learning cycle, teamwork, and other practices from learning science. POGIL is best known in STEM disciplines, but it is used in many other disciplines and contexts.
This can be done in many ways, each with good and bad features.
- Allow students to choose their own teams.
- Assign teams at random, particularly when the teacher does not know the students.
- Assign teams based on ability or performance, usually into teams of similar ability.
In a team with strong and weak students, the weak students may depend on the strong.
- A team of weak students must work harder, but usually can complete activities, which can improve the skills and confidence of all team members
- A team of strong students may explore more complex or subtle issues, or could help other teams once they finish the activity.
Teams should change rarely if at all, but roles should change with every activity, so that each student gains experience and skills in each role. Many teachers use similar roles (manager, speaker, recorder) but these are not required; the teacher or activity author should choose roles that match the activity and process goals.
This can be done in many ways:
- Teacher raises hand, and each student raises their hand when they see a raised hand.
This is probably the most common approach.
- Teacher claps or taps a pattern. Students repeat the pattern when they hear it.
- Teacher rings a bell, gong, or buzzer.
Teachers should consider many goals and issues for reporting:
- Report regularly to provide deadlines so teams don't fall behind.
- Report on key convergent questions, so teams can find out which answers and conclusions are correct.
- Report on some divergent questions to see different view and ideas, and to encourage thinking and discussion.
- Report individually to see if all team members understand concepts.
- In a large class, there may not be time for every team to report out for each question, but each team should report out at least once during each class meeting.
Reporting can be done in many ways:
- Have each team orally present their team's answer to a question.
- Have each team write their answer on the chalkboard or whiteboard.
- Give each team a small chalkboard or whiteboard to write their answer. This is especially useful for drawing (e.g. chemical structures).
- Give each team a set of cards with different colors, letters, or numbers, and have them hold up the card corresponding to their answer.
- Have one team member move to another team to compare answers, then report back to the original team and change answers if needed.
- Use technology such as clickers or web-based reporting systems, which can show individual responses or summarize data to show patterns.
POGIL has been used successfully in classes of 200 or more. Consider:
- Arrange teams so that members can collaborate easily, and so that the teacher can get close to every group.
- Report out with just a few teams, particularly if their answers are consistent.
- Simplify or automate reporting with tools or technology (see above).
- Increase team size to 5 or 6 (if everyone can be active) to reduce the number of teams, or decrease team size to 3 to improve collaboration with fixed auditorium seating.
- Use student facilitators as assistants (see below).
- Before using a new activity, try to pilot it with a small group to find and fix problems.
Student facilitators can help, especially in large classes; this is called Peer-Led Guided Inquiry (PLGI). This works best when the student facilitators have previously completed the activity, and when they have received some training in POGIL facilitation.
With a good activity, most teams will stay focused and engaged on their own. Restless teams may be a sign that the activity can be revised and improved. Also, consider adding variety with more or different reporting out, mini-lectures, or activities where teams move around or manipulate physical objects.
POGIL is usually better than lecture, but no approach to learning is 100% effective. Remind students that they will learn more in a team than working alone, perhaps by starting the term with an activity that focuses on teamwork.
Remind students that POGIL will help them to develop teamwork and other process skills, which are required in most careers and professional work.
Some students have had bad experiences with teams, because work was not shared equally; remind them that POGIL activities and roles are designed to engage all members equally, and that each member will rotate through each role.