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Words from Tammy Pirmann
Today’s post is from Tammy Pirmann, one of the first two educators given the POGIL Early Achievement Award.

Today’s post is from Tammy Pirmann, one of the first two educators given the POGIL Early Achievement Award. The press release describing the award is linked here. Ms. Pirmann is a high school computer science teacher in Springfield Township PA, where she is also the district coordinator for Computer Science and Business. She is an active member of the POGIL community – in fact, she set up this blog.

Below Ms. Pirmann describes how she gets students started learning computer science and using POGIL in her classes.

When I meet a new group of high school freshmen in September, I like to engage them in a conversation to surface what they think the world of work is like. Almost every year I hear the same things. Students think that their education has been preparing them for work, therefore, they think that work must be a lot like school. The majority of them do not describe a workplace with teams, but one worker among many reporting to a boss and being given discrete tasks with instructions from that boss. Since I teach computer science, students come to class with impressions formed from the media specific to the field. One person on a computer for 8 hours, work in – work out, with no creativity. I show students videos of computer scientists talking about what their job is like, and some videos of people actually doing the work. This lays the groundwork for why I care so much about the process skills they will learn and demonstrate.

By the beginning of October, students have been learning computer science with POGIL activities, have held each role at least once, have had the opportunity to practice and demonstrate several process skills, and get comfortable with the way my classes operate. Typically in October one or two students will voluntarily bring up the discussion from the first week and laugh at themselves. Most students in the class get it. They understand why they have roles, and why we practice specific process skills. They have the role cards with the dialog prompts on them and are still using them regularly to check on themselves.

By the end of the course, the role cards tend to stay in the folder. Students have internalized the roles, have learned how to talk to each other in a professional way, without having to check the cards. One of the long lasting benefits my students get from a POGIL classroom is the ability to join a group, communicate respectfully, establish norms quickly, and to reach consensus. It takes time, and it takes intention, but the roles and the process skills have become an integral part of my classroom.