This newsletter feature, previously "Ask the Mole", answers questions on a variety of POGIL topics. The feature is written by POGIL Executive Director, Rick Moog. Do you have a question for the POGIL Water Bottle? Let us know in an email at email@example.com.
There are myriad ways to get involved with The POGIL Project other than using the POGIL pedagogy in your classroom. The Project is always looking for practitioners who are willing to help out on various Strategic Plan working groups and we encourage people to visit our strategic plan website to learn more about the plan and the various working groups.
If you are interested in writing or reviewing activities, you should definitely check out the POGIL Activity Clearinghouse. This group facilitates the collaboration, peer review, and classroom testing stages associated with creating high-quality materials meeting the standards approved by The POGIL Project.
If you want to engage with the community on issues related to The Project or the pedagogy, you should join our POGIL Practitioners Facebook group. And if you would like to learn more about The Project, listen to our podcast or attend one of our eSeries events. We are always looking for new ways to engage our community, so if you have an idea, let’s make it happen! Email firstname.lastname@example.org and we can see what is possible!
The POGIL Steering Committee guides the work of The Project by assuring that the strategic plan is carried out. There are seven members on the Steering Committee, each with defined responsibilities related to one of the goals of the strategic plan. The members each serve a 3-year term, with two members rotating off each year, and new members rotating on at the POGIL National Meeting. There is a long-term chair whose term is undefined.
The POGIL Board of Directors directs the activities of The POGIL Project as a corporate entity, and stands in a fiduciary relationship to the Corporation. Members of the Board are appointed by the other members of the Board.
The POGIL pedagogy is student-centered and active. It was developed out of a desire to help students succeed and its hallmarks are that it is not instructor-centered or lecture-heavy. With POGIL, instructors no longer think about what they are going to say, but instead, focus on what students say. They work to help those students develop their own understanding of material and the ability to apply concepts. The instructor predominantly serves as a facilitator of student learning and not as the primary source of information.
Students need to understand why a POGIL class is structured differently than a lecture-based class. It is useful to do an introductory activity that helps students understand that building their own knowledge is a more effective way of learning and will lead to long-term success. The POGIL activity replaces lecture material, demonstrates how experts think about the content, and provides the students with a self-generated study guide.
It is also important to note that POGIL materials are not designed to be used as worksheets, as homework, or as substitute teacher lesson plans. Rather, they are designed to introduce students to critical concepts, deepen understanding of those concepts, and to help students apply those concepts. Effective facilitation is key to effective student learning.
Facilitators using POGIL often encounter resistance from students who express a preference for lectures. Resistance is not surprising, since a team-based active learning format is often new for students and requires them to change their perspective on the roles of the teach and the student. Students can feel threatened in this new environment as they grapple with the unknown and struggle to make sense of a new system. It is natural for students to resist changes that make them uncomfortable and as a result, students often express dissatisfaction with POGIL, possibly leading to complaints from parents, and questions from colleagues and administrators. The book POGIL: An Introduction to Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning for Those Who Wish to Empower Learners, suggests employing several strategies to increase buy-in. These include:
Read more about these strategies in Chapter 8 of the book, sold by Stylus Publishing.
There is no single way to implement POGIL in the classroom and every implementation has unique characteristics that can influence how and whether particular goals are achieved. However, there are 4 core characteristics that must be present in order for a classroom environment to be considered a POGIL implementation:
POGIL's activity writing track is designed for experienced POGIL practitioners who have attended any one of the following: Virtual Fundamentals of POGIL workshop, a summer 3-day POGIL workshop, or a 1-day POGIL workshop. The workshop consists of several team activities and individual assignments throughout the week. Despite being in a virtual format, this is a very learner-centered, active-learning workshop. There will be small homework assignments given at the end of the first two sessions. Participants will work on writing an activity of their choice throughout the week. Facilitators will be available to provide feedback and suggestions on Thursday through individual coaching sessions as needed. This is a great way to begin the writing process.
The Writers' Retreat provides an opportunity for individuals or small teams to spend focused time on developing, writing, and improving POGIL activities that they have begun writing with the mentorship of experienced POGIL author coaches. The 4-day agenda (plus a 2-hour orientation) includes workshop sessions focused on activity authoring, feedback sessions, and ample time for writing and interacting with other authors and author coaches. For more information, contact Jen Perot at email@example.com.
POGIL Learning Communities are an initiative in the POGIL Project to broaden participation, deepen community, and create equitable pathways to leadership opportunities in the POGIL Project. The goal of this program is to support a diverse set of new practitioners through their beginning years of implementation to improve retention of underrepresented instructors in the POGIL Project.
A professional learning community is a group of practitioners that meets on a regular basis to share expertise and collaborate to improve their teaching. POGIL Learning Communities are designed to support new practitioners throughout their first years of implementation, to identify available resources to promote sustainability, to improve pedagogical practices, and to build connections to the POGIL community. For more information, click here.
The POGIL Project values the creation of inclusive learning environments for students and instructors. Furthermore, The POGIL Project “envision(s) an educational system that prepares every learner to enrich the world by thinking critically, solving problems, working effectively with others, and experiencing the joy of discovery.” Reaching every learner requires that we intentionally strive to increase the diversity and inclusivity of the POGIL community and the students it serves. The Project cannot attain these aspirations without being intentional, explicit, systemic, and ongoing in its efforts focused on diversity, equity and inclusion. We acknowledge that we are striving toward an ideal, and we recognize that effective applications of principles of diversity, equity and inclusion require a persistent, continual revision of existing frameworks; it is not a destination with a clearly defined stopping point. We have created a guiding principles document to inform an effective application of DEI ideals. Visit https://pogil.org/about-the-pogil-project/guiding-principles for more information.
After 10 wonderful years of answering questions, our beloved Mole will be hanging up his lab coat, putting away his beakers, and finally taking some time for himself. The Mole is retiring! Luckily for us, taking the Mole’s place is the POGIL Water Bottle, who will be happy to continue answering questions and keeping our wonderful community informed! You will still be getting the same type of helpful answers coming from the Water Bottle that you came to rely on from the Mole! Let’s all welcome the POGIL Water Bottle with open arms into this new position it is accepting!
The COVID-19 pandemic changed our traditional view of what education should be and transformed it to include multiple methods of delivery. The use of online tools has been revolutionary for many, and now, as we transition back to face-to-face learning, many instructors are hoping to incorporate these tools into their in-person/synchronous instruction. Tools such as Jamboard, breakout rooms, and Google slides, to name a few, have been critical to keeping students on track and interacting with each other and instructors are hoping to find ways to keep using them. Thus, while a return to the classroom will be welcome, continuing to utilize and incorporate these online tools will make for a more dynamic experience for both instructors and students. It is also important to remember that a mere return to physical teamwork should include effective implementation of cooperative learning techniques, which contain at least three common characteristics—the techniques should be motivational, effective, and cognitive. Through these techniques, each student will be able to encourage their teammates to collaboratively reach group goals and to gain confidence in their own abilities while still being challenged academically. The instructor should serve as a coach/adviser by facilitating key interactions among students that can further lead students to their own deeper understandings and encourage the construction of new and refined knowledge.
One way to connect with other practitioners is through The Project’s new Facebook page that is designed to bring together POGIL practitioners so that they have an opportunity for shared learning, a chance to discuss POGIL practice, and the ability to develop and deepen relationships with others in the POGIL community. Conversations range from “how do you do this in your classroom” to ads for various positions in different regions. With about 400 members, the POGIL Practitioners page is a great place to find the latest news and resources that will help you in your own classrooms, as well as connect and stay connected with other POGIL practitioners outside of meetings and events. Check it out at https://www.facebook.com/groups/POGIL/?ref=pages_profile_groups_tab&source_id=124666176320
The POGIL Project offers a variety of resources geared toward helping educators with online teaching. We have a variety of webinars and recordings where community members speak about their own experiences with online teaching and what has helped them in their classrooms while online. We also have a variety of helpful links and tips on this page to help you navigate the virtual classroom experience.
To access these resources, visit our special page at https://pogil.org/teaching-online-during-the-covid-19-crisis. We also encourage you to join our POGIL Practitioners Facebook page at https://en-gb.facebook.com/groups/POGIL/, for a community where people come together to share ideas and ask questions.
Taking courses online has proven highly effective among students as it gives them the ability to practice POGIL activities throughout the week at their own pace, while still having a “deadline” to complete the assignments. It is a different experience but the beautiful thing about POGIL is that it can be applied in new creative ways that will still accommodate student needs. We understand the difficulties that have arisen in education amidst COVID and The POGIL Project is committed to supporting its practitioners during this difficult time. Feel free to reach out and check out our resources that can help you best manage your POGIL classroom online.
Employing the POGIL method in any discipline provides the opportunity to impart transfer skills; teach process skills and social learning; improve mastery of content, skills, and depth of learning; increase course exam scores, grades, and standardized test scores; increase student perceptions of the value of learning in teams; and lower course attrition rates. The fact that process skills help students transfer acquired procedural skills to new conceptual and social situations is the most valid reason to employ POGIL across disciplines. These process skills are also in demand by employers and therefore should be included in any university discipline, in STEM disciplines, in any grade level, and beyond.
The Guided Inquiry (GI) of POGIL is structured inquiry or identifying inquiry. A POGIL activity uses a learning cycle to support students in constructing knowledge about the disciplinary content related to a larger concept or driving question. Both the question and the desired learning outcomes for students drive the design of the activity. The activity structure is designed such that the learning-cycle components scaffold student learning through the activity. Once students complete the activity, they are able to answer the overarching question posed by the instructor as well as construct meaning of new knowledge and understanding. In this inquiry, the instructor no longer takes the role of being the deliverer of information, but rather takes the role of a facilitator of ideas and learning which enables student learning. The guided inquiry and process components are highly integrated within the classroom implementation of POGIL, and the effective implementation of guided inquiry requires the active engagement of students in constructing ideas and mastering material.
The POGIL methodology is an effective guided inquiry strategy with a proven track record or enhancing student learning. In addition, the guided inquiry method of teaching matches well with the inquiry necessary for conducting science. Inquiry methods in the POGIL model follow the learning cycle components of exploration, concept invention, and application, and require students to make use of a set of process skills to learn the relevant material. The learning cycle matches well to the traditional model of the scientific method. In the exploration phase, the activity proves and asks questions about a phenomenon and leads to concept invention, analogous to analyzing data and developing a hypothesis. Students then move on to application, or hypothesis testing, and ask more questions.
When selecting and/or writing POGIL activities, an initial step is to think about why the activity is being used. A POGIL activity is designed to guide students as they construct a deep understanding of a concept and, at the same time, to help them develop process skills. A POGIL activity is appropriate for the following:
• A new and important concept, particularly a threshold concept (Meyer & Land, 2003) that students often struggle with, but must master to continue with the subject.
• A concept in which students are likely to be confused of struggle due to inexperience, lack of knowledge, or misconceptions.
• The start of a new unit or topic to orient students to new ideas, problems, or approaches.
Instructors should also recognize when not to use POGIL activities. Each activity is designed to be used by a team of students with active facilitation by an instructor. Thus, activities should not be assigned as homework or used without facilitation. In addition, POGIL activities may not be the best tool for reviewing concepts with which students are already familiar.