Pogil - Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

Enriching Infrared Spectroscopy Through Inquiry-Based Activities



The goal of this project is to enhance student learning of Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy in analytical and physical chemistry by developing problem-based (PB) laboratories linked to process-oriented guided-inquiry learning (POGIL) activities.

The laboratories and activities we develop will enable students to (1) build their own understanding of critical concepts in FTIR through guided inquiry, (2) enhance their understanding of physical chemistry concepts using FTIR, and (3) hone important process skills like teamwork, problem solving, and critical thinking. The activities will be centered on key IR spectroscopy concepts, while the laboratory projects will provide students with hands-on opportunities to explore fundamental techniques and measurements as well as to investigate advanced topics such as the characterization of surfaces. Since existing physical chemistry POGIL activities introduce IR theory, we propose to build on these activities as well as develop new IR-based activities for analytical chemistry.

In addition, in order to develop and implement PB laboratory experiments, we will purchase a research-quality FTIR instrument equipped to perform attenuated total reflectance (ATR) spectroscopy. This instrument will be a vital part of the upper-division chemistry curriculum as well as a tool for our undergraduate research program.


The intellectual merit of this project stems from integrating active-learning in-class activities and problem-based laboratories into analytical and physical chemistry courses. Inquiry-based, hands on pedagogies facilitate student-centered learning and place more emphasis on students as scientists.

Through in-class activities, students will gain understanding of essential concepts of IR absorption spectroscopy and instrumentation. In turn, the students’ conceptual understanding will be reinforced and enhanced through laboratory experiences that focus on applying IR theory to solve problems. The FTIR laboratories will include structured experiments that develop essential technical skills. In addition, the PB laboratories will feature open-ended investigations that require students to develop experimental questions, collect data, and analyze and communicate results.


The development and dissemination of FTIR-absorption spectroscopy, inquiry-based learning activities and problem-based laboratory experiences will have a broad impact by (1) adding to the body of peer-reviewed, in-class POGIL activities that have been developed for analytical and physical chemistry and (2) creating inquiry-based laboratory experiments that are linked to classroom activities with a focus on developing students’ investigative skills and expertise. The availability of resources for upper-level undergraduate courses will be valuable to many practitioners of active-learning pedagogies who already use POGIL activities in general chemistry and/or organic chemistry classes. Because of the direct linkage between the classroom and laboratory, the resources we create will also be embraced by faculty whose students need to develop more conceptual understanding in order to undertake inquiry-based activities in the lab.

Principal Investigators:

Ruth Riter (Agnes Scott College)

Sarah Winget (Agnes Scott College)

Richard Moog (The POGIL Project)