Ask the Water Bottle

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

Photo Credit: Malia Turner of Coupeville, WA - On the shore of Salt Pond Park in Eleele, Kauai.

What does it mean when we say POGIL pedagogy embraces the growth mindset?

During the 1980s and 1990s, in response to a call for greater and broader student success, there were many initiatives throughout the United States to change the way STEM subjects were taught. A move toward more active learning and a social classroom construct were common themes in programs such as Problem-based Learning, SCALE-up, the Science Writing Heuristic, Harvard Reform Calculus, and Modeling Physics.

The innovators of POGIL pedagogy sought to develop a groundbreaking approach to teach chemistry as part of this trend. They dove into the educational research at the time and combined several ideas about how students learn into a unified pedagogy. One of these was “Growth Mindset” (Dweck, 2006), in which students are encouraged to metacognitive about the content they are learning during an activity. Dweck posited that our believes about intelligence and the ability to change mindsets can have impacts on how we approach challenges, respond to criticism, and orient our goals. In that vein, in a POGIL classroom, students are also asked to reflect on their team interactions and to provide feedback to their teammates. This investment of time in reflection and metacognition sends a message to students that hard work and the right adjustments I their thinking have more to do with their success than their natural talent.

What is one method to achieve buy-in in my classroom?

Facilitators using POGIL often encounter resistance from students who express a preference for lectures. This resistance is not surprising, since a team-based active learning format is often a new experience for students and requires them to change their perspective on the roles of teacher and student. Students can feel threatened in this new environment because they are grappling with an unknown system, have new responsibilities, and are being asked to process information, think critically, solve problems, and interact productively with others. How can an instructor overcome this resistance? Several strategies are discussed in the POGIL book. One of those strategies is to empower students to shape some aspect of the class. According to authors Mare Sullivan and Jenny Loertscher, when students perceive that they have control over at least some aspect of their learning environment, they work more productively. By soliciting and then explicitly acting on student input early in the term, facilitators can affirm the students’ agency. This affirmation is a win-win for student and facilitator alike, establishing an environment of cooperation that leads to success (Bain, 2004.) One way to do this is to gather feedback simply by asking students to list three aspects of the course that support their learning, or by asking students to identify one insight they have had about their own learning and explain how they can use this insight to succeed in the course.

What is Collaborative Feedback Training?

Collaborative Feedback Training is a service offered by the POGIL Activity Clearinghouse to get authors started on their PAC journey. The Goal of a Collaborative Feedback Training session is to ensure the highest quality peer feedback process. This free, online videoconference is hosted approximately three times a year and will calibrate PAC authors and reviewers to the peer feedback rubrics. In addition, the session will orient new users to the purpose of the PAC and the activity submission process. All authors and reviewers must complete a Collaborative Feedback Training session prior to gaining access to posted activities. It is assumed that each participant will have completed a Fundamentals of POGIL workshop and be familiar with the essential elements of a POGIL activity and application of the POGIL feedback rubrics. This one-hour training session is an introduction to reviewing activities submitted to the POGIL Activity Clearinghouse (PAC).

  • Prior to the session, participants will use the PAC website to individually review a draft POGIL activity, using POGIL rubrics.
  • During the session, participants will share their responses with a team of 2-3 other reviewers and work towards achieving consensus on how best to apply the rubrics. Discussion among reviewers will provide calibration of rubric scores and common issues found in draft activities will be highlighted.

Visit this link for more information.

Does good facilitation aid in process skill development?

Abolutely! Facilitation is critical in helping students develop process skills. A facilitation plan help instructors identify the process skills developed within an activity and gives the facilitator the opportunity to prepare for eliciting, monitoring, and providing feedback on those skills as students work on an activity. This aspect of preparing the facilitation plan includes reviewing the activity and identifying the prompted process skills and how those can be reinforced, observed, and assessed as students work. With the facilitation plan in mind, the facilitator can then monitor, intentionally provide instruction, create opportunities for improvement, and give feedback to help students develop their process skills in the classroom. But does no good to encourage development of process skills if the assessments do not require the use of them. Assessing and providing feedback about students' development and use of process skills not only helps students develop these skills, but also to undersand the importance of obtaining and practicing these skills.

What’s going on with The POGIL Project Strategic Plan?

Last year, The Project embarked on a journey to create its third 5-year strategic plan. Under the guidance of a planning team, first led by Susan Shadle of Boise State (who led the creation of The Project’s first strategic plan), and then Juliette Lantz of Drew University, The Project spent the last two POGIL National Meetings refining the key points of this latest iteration. The POGIL Steering Committee continues to sift through the feedback from the PNM and hopes to have a working plan in place by this fall. The official plan will be debuted at next year’s POGIL National Meeting. The key takeaways from this strategic planning process are that The Project wants to ensure that it addresses the needs of learners, practitioners and The Project itself while remaining true to its mission of improving teaching and learning. Everything in this next plan will be rooted in the understanding that the following three principles must permeate all the work we do as a Project:

  • Develop, promote, and implement processes and actions that that address the barriers for full engagement of practitioners, students and organizational structures.
  • Ground all of our endeavors in fiscally responsible practices that lead to sustainability.
  • Ensure that tactics used to implement the strategic plan be specific, time-bound and measurable, so that we can assess the organization’s progress in a thoughtful and meaningful way.

We are looking forward to unveiling the next strategic and exciting next five years!

How do I get more involved with The POGIL Project beyond the classroom?

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 and we can see what is possible!

What is the difference between the POGIL Steering Committee and the POGIL Board of Directors?

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. 

How do I talk about the POGIL pedagogy to my colleagues and students?

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.

How do I increase buy-in to POGIL in my classroom?

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 teacher 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:

  • Creating a supporting environment in which POGIL is the norm
  • Incorporating “Redemptive Grading” to increase mastery and decrease anxiety
  • Explicitly revealing aspects of the POGIL pedagogy
  • Creating a safe learning environment
  • Providing incentives for meaningful participation
  • Empowering students to shape some aspects of the class
  • Cultivating buy-in from third parties

Read more about these strategies in Chapter 8 of the book, sold by Stylus Publishing.

How do I implement POGIL in my classroom?

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:

  • Students are expected to work collaboratively, generally in groups of 3 or 4.
  • The activities that the students use are POGIL activities, specifically designed for POGIL implementation.
  • The students work on the activity during class time with a facilitator present.
  • The dominant mode of instruction is not lecture or instructor-centered; the instructor serves predominantly as a facilitator of student learning.

What's the difference between the Activity Writing Track and the Writer's Retreat?

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

What are POGIL Learning Communities?

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.

What does The POGIL Project do to promote diversity, equity and inclusion?

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 for more information.

The mole hangs up his lab coat

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! 

What should I keep in mind when I get back to face-to-face instruction?

July, 2021

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.

I am trying to connect with other POGIL practitioners outside of meetings and events. How can I do this?

May 2021

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 

Does POGIL have any resources for teaching online?

February 2021

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 We also encourage you to join our POGIL Practitioners Facebook page at, for a community where people come together to share ideas and ask questions.

Is the POGIL pedagogy still as effective online as it is in a normal classroom setting?

Winter 2020

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. 

Why go beyond STEM with POGIL?

Fall 2020

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.

Excerpted from POGIL: An Introduction to Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning for Those Who Wish to Empower Learners, Edited by Shawn Simonson, Stylus Publishing, 2019.

What is the GI of POGIL?

Winter 2019/2020

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.

Why are POGIL methods particularly well suited to STEM?

Fall 2019

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.

Why should I use POGIL activities?

Summer 2019

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.