Pogil - Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

    • HSPI Classroom Photo 3
    • HSPI Classroom Photo 3

Stage 1 - Shifting to a Student Centered Classroom

Whether you are looking to test the waters with some preliminary adjustments to your classroom routines or are ready to dive in the deep end of the POGIL pool, here are some points to consider BEFORE implementing your first activity. 

Why use POGIL? 

Making the change to a Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) classroom is a big transition for most teachers and their students, a change that goes far beyond introducing new materials to the classroom. Adopting POGIL represents a real philosophical shift in your perceptions of the roles of teacher and student in a learning environment.  We encourage you to attend a workshop and to read more to deepen your understanding of the POGIL pedagogy. 

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When do I use a POGIL activity?

Once you have a grasp on the WHY’s, you can move on to the WHEN’s of using POGIL with these tips shared by our practitioners.

Do consider using a POGIL activity WHEN:

  • Introducing a unit.
  • Introducing a difficult concept.
  • Replacing a lecture.
  • Reviewing or checking for understanding.
  • A deep conceptual understanding is necessary, ie- more than just delivery of facts.
  • Lecture is not efficient or effective.
  • Students have known misconceptions or to uncover student misconceptions.
  • Covering dense, chunkable content.

Do NOT use a POGIL activity WHEN:

  • Assigning something to be completed as an independent worksheet.
  • A substitute is in the room, unless the students are well trained in POGIL methodology and the substitute knows how to properly facilitate an activity.

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Curriculum Considerations

When using the HSPI collection of materials, either first year or AP, you can rest assured that the topics included cover the typical units found in any traditional science curriculum.  They are aligned with the most frequently cited national standards (NSTA and the new K-12 Framework).  These activities do not, however, serve as a stand-alone course; they are designed to be incorporated into your existing curriculum. You will need to spend some time reviewing your school’s curriculum requirements to determine which activities are the best match for your needs.  Each HSPI activity lists clear learning objectives, background knowledge pre-requisites and extension questions, all of which will help guide your selection and placement in your course timeline.

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My new role as Facilitator

The list that follows covers some important points shared by our practitioners to help you make the shift into the new role of Facilitator of student learning.

  • Using POGIL changes how the classroom is controlled and directed.
  • Using POGIL takes the spotlight off the teacher.
  • The teacher in a POGIL classroom is not the expert - the data/model is the source of information.
  • Because the teacher in a POGIL classroom is not the primary source of information, he/she does not answer questions directly, but refers students back to the data/model.
  • Gain the expertise to not tell students the answer but be able to guide them to the evidence required to invent concepts and draw conclusions.
  • The teacher’s workflow may shift in a POGIL classroom, with more preparation and planning required prior to class and less obvious tasks taking place during class.
  • Facilitation is ACTIVE!
  • Become a data collector.  Watch and listen to your students as they work.
  • Roam the classroom with a clipboard, so you can record misconceptions or points to expand in mini-lectures or for specific groups.
  • Have answers in your hand as you facilitate an activity.
  • Prepare to listen more as the teacher.
  • Teachers report a change in their internal dialogue, from thinking about what they are going to say to instead focusing on what students are saying. 
  • Student centered learning invites more conversation from the students and less from the teacher - mouth closed, eyes and ears wide open!
  • Develop techniques to have students ask questions of each other. 
  • Model questioning techniques for students.
  • The teacher should only talk to the person in each group whose assigned role includes that function, to honor the assigned roles.
  • Ask students questions but do not interrupt group work.
  • Develop eavesdropping skills or use the ones you already have to listen to group discussions.
  • Think of yourself as a project manager that delegates to groups.
  • Set goals for yourself each day.
  • Be transparent about your goals for yourself as the teacher and your goals for your students.
  • Summarize your facilitator role after an activity.  Keep a log of SII evaluations.
  • Develop and use tools to evaluate and provide feedback for both content goals and student process skills being developed. 
  • Frame and relate POGIL to  Bybee's 5E model  for students.
  • Do an "Engage" activity before doing the POGIL:  question, demo, quiz, survey, to allow misconceptions to surface, KWL-like warm up, or use AAAS assessment website for misconception list and test questions.
  • Have students map Explore/Explain/Elaborate in POGIL activity to see learning cycle - Exploration/Concept Invention/Application.
  • Extend - revisit and compare starting point with current state of understanding, have students write/report out reflections after activity, provide an explanation to a new situation that is recognizable as similar to original and/or revise original explanation.
  • Don’t offer general praise (like “Great!”) because it encourages students to seek affirmation from the teacher.
  • Exude confidence and comfort with this technique.  Students will sense your hesitation and discomfort with POGIL and they will be uncomfortable, too. 
  • Fake it ‘till you make it!  Don’t get discouraged - it takes time to master new skills for new methods.  Be patient with yourself and your students.

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Because a POGIL classroom operates in a very different way than traditional lecture-based classrooms, clearly communicating the changes in expectations is critical.  Here are some points to consider when developing your communication plan.

With Administration and the Community:

  • Work early to get support from your administration.
  • Administrators need to understand you are using research-based cooperative learning strategies.  Share the research on the POGIL website.
  • Invite administrators to observe your classroom.
  • Get support from the local community.  Science or business related industries in your area may be interested in the 21st Century Skills  a POGIL classroom develops.

With Fellow Teachers:

  • Offer to hold informational meetings to describe the purpose of the activities.
  • Share with colleagues to allow for peer support.  Having 2 practitioners in a building, regardless of content area, can be a valuable tool for professional development and growth. 
  • Use Critical Friends or  Professional Learning Community tools.

With Parents:

With Students:

  • Students need to understand what you are doing to create buy-in.
  • Explain and “sell” the idea of POGIL to students and make the philosophy transparent.
  • Share with students the research on learning and why you have chosen to use the activities.
  • Spend time early in the year on the importance of student roles and the value of sharing constructive feedback.
  • Create a rubric for POGIL on Task (POT) and Daily on Task (DOT) points.
  • Some teachers don’t use the term POGIL and instead just call the activities a “Learning Activity”, as it is just another part of their class and another learning tool.
  • Send a postcard home to students before school starts to welcome them to your course and start a positive relationship.  Be aware that parents will read this before the students!

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Classroom Setup

Physical set up of a POGIL classroom can vary, depending on the limitations of the space.  The following tips are applicable in any classroom arrangement and should be considered when beginning to plan for implementing group learning on a regular basis. (Sample Classroom Photos - 1 , 2, 3, 4 )

  • Make a plan for how to arrange tables/desks for both group and individual work in the classroom.  Draw room sketches for both configurations.
  • Try to set up your classroom so that there is no direction or “stage” in the classroom during group work situations.
  • Arrange room for groups so that instructor can move around easily.
  • If at all possible, students should face each other when doing POGIL work, to be able to look at each other and also have a surface to write on.
  • Develop a procedure for rearranging the desks/tables and have students practice moving things into place.

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Materials Needed / Implementation Costs

Implementing POGIL in your classroom is relatively low cost.  After the initial fees for training and the cost of materials, the activities are mainly pencil/paper based and require no special equipment or materials.  However, many teachers find advanced planning for some organizational tools to be helpful.

Equipment for the classroom:

  • Chime or gong for audio cues.
  • Timer or download an electronic version (note - this links to a free site, which includes advertising).
  • Classroom sets of materials like colored pencils, rulers, highlighters, calculators.
  • Copy and laminate classroom sets of role cards with periodic table, solubility table, card sorts, or references on the back for use by student groups.
  • Create sets of materials (periodic table, calculator, set of manipulatives, etc) for each group.
  • HSPI activity books from Flinn Scientific.
  • Plan for photocopying costs for student versions of activities.

Materials for Students:

  • Develop a system for students to keep and organize their completed POGIL activities to study as a reference for the rest of the year.
  • Provide students a summary sheet to help them summarize, keep and reflect on the knowledge gained through the POGIL activities.
  • Develop a system to inform students what to use for notes.

Additional Costs:

  • Trainings - workshops and meeting fees.

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Determining POGIL’s place in your classroom grading system is an important consideration when planning for implementation. POGIL practitioners have found success using a variety of grading policies, pieces of which are outlined below.  Within all of these ideas, one guiding principle is evident - whatever grading policy you create, you want it to complement and encourage your students’ process skill growth and the emerging group dynamic.  Be it individual or group grades, participation points or content focused, be mindful of your instructional goal(s) in choosing to use a POGIL activity versus some other instructional technique. In other words, always keep the group process in mind!

  • POGIL activities are designed as learning tools, not assessment instruments.
  • Use activities primarily as notes, not necessarily for grades.
  • Feedback on learning is most effective when that feedback is not linked to a grade.
  • Reflect on what you are choosing to grade and why you grade particular items.  Does the grade reflect student learning (content) or student participation?
  • If grading an activity, the emphasis should be on the process skills rather than the mastery of the content knowledge.
  • Use rubrics so you can compare scores across classes and years and so that students understand your expectations.
  • Consider creating a rubric for “POGIL on Task (POT)” points.
  • Award participation points for on task behavior.  Create a clipboard rubric to carry with you around the room. 
  • Use a checklist to reflect on student’s view of their participation compared to the teacher’s impression of participation. Sample checklists are available in the POGIL Instructor's Guide, available as a free download here.
  • Have students collect and store activities in a binder/notebook and then selectively grade a small sample of the activities for quality of completion.
  • Sometimes collect all of a group’s work just to check if a particular question is exactly the same then score 10/10 if ALL the same or 0/10 if not the same.  Note - the answer may or may not actually be correct.  This encourages reaching a consensus and proper recording of the consensus answer.
  • Collect one copy of the activity per group (choose randomly) to check for completion.
  • Give a quiz the day after doing a POGIL activity.
  • Consider having “Open POGIL” quizzes (ie - using the completed POGIL to answer the quiz questions, like an ‘Open Book” quiz).  This encourages all group members to record the answers.
  • Start class with a daily mini-quiz, focusing on the key concepts from class the day before.
  • Use a concept check with tools such as clickers, as described by the CWSEI, or NCTE's exit slips.
  • If the POGIL activity covers a particularly difficult concept, or if you notice that all members in a group didn’t write answers, collect the activity and check for accuracy.  Pay particular attention to the key questions or points you might have discussed during the course of the day in class, helping students to learn to zero in on those important concepts. 
  • Provide opportunities for students to earn both individual points and group points during POGIL activities.
  • Alternate between awarding group and individual points.
  • Be sure to match the assessment questions you develop to the target objectives of the activity.
  • Grade only the key questions.
  • Consider giving extra points for the supplemental / extension questions.
  • Put one of the questions from the POGIL activity on the test/summative assessment for the unit.
  • Don’t forget to assess process skills.   Remember if you don’t let them know process skills are important, the students won’t value process skills.
  • Evaluate process skills subjectively and translate to 10% of grade in “Personal Skills” category.
  • Establish a partnership with other colleagues to compare test questions used during an assessment and then reflect on student performance on those assessment items.  Use this data as a springboard to brainstorm on how the instructional sequence or learning activities can be modified to improve student learning.

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Student Roles

The use of student roles is a hallmark of the POGIL pedagogy and successful implementation of this learning strategy is dependent upon their use.  Some practitioners believe roles are the real key to having a positive experience with  POGIL.  Particularly in the high school setting, because of the broad range of cognitive and social skill levels that exist within any given group of teenage students, it is essential to clearly define and provide instruction about the appropriate, pro-social behaviors associated with working in cooperative groups.  This section of the guide provides tips and resources developed by our practitioners to help you incorporate student roles successfully into your classroom.  A webinar on the topic of student roles will be held on May 17th .

  • Examples of student roles include:  time keeper/timer, cheerleader/encourager, facilitator, spokesperson, quality control, process analyst, manager, recorder, reader, materials manager, document controller, technician.  Most teachers form groups of 3 or 4 students, so not every role is used during an activity.
  • Students need to be trained to use roles, as many have never done this type of group work before.
  • Start early in the year to train students - use often enough that they don’t forget how to use roles, forms, procedures, etc.
  • Use consistently and pervasively from the start.
  • Continually reinforce the use of roles.
  • Show videos to demonstrate roles and skills needed to successfully work in a group.
  • Point out positive examples of behavior when it occurs.
  • Have a class discussion / lesson on roles. 
  • Practice roles and provide rationales for using the roles.
  • Leading up to the first few activities, introduce and emphasize roles each day by role-playing.
  • Introduce the POGIL classroom with a role-focused activity.
  • Have groups stay constant for the first few activities of the year to ensure that each group member has the chance to try each role.
  • Shift roles within groups on a regular basis.
  • Create posters as reminders of the responsibilities of each role.
  • Keep roles / job descriptions simple.
  • Provide role cards that include sample statements that each person might make.
  • Using roles promotes student leadership in the classroom.
  • Have a student classroom facilitator of the day.
  • Assess student knowledge of the roles prior to activity - ask each what is your role?  What are your responsibilities in that role?
  • Make sure that each role is used once during a class period to provide accountability for all.
  • Be careful when assigning a reader - keep in mind 504 plans!  Possibly allow volunteers for that job.
  • The reader is key to keep students together.
  • Place roles that need to move in easily accessible areas of the classroom.
  • Using roles reduces the chance for one person to dominate.
  • Have a part of a role be to watch the board for clarification/ notes from teacher.
  • Choose one role to monitor during each activity.
  • Assess and provide feedback on role performance as part of process skill development.
  • Allow for student reflection of process skills.
  • Use teaching personal effectiveness as a part of teaching roles.
  • Use the roles you are confident in monitoring as a facilitator.
  • Use a visual so you know which roles you have - each role sits in a particular seat location at the table, badges (file), table tents (photo), colored placemats (photo), poster (file)etc.
  • Use a set of magnetic role cards on the board to show groups which position at the table is which role.
  • Don’t do these activities without role cards!  You may be tempted, but don’t do it.  The visual is important, especially early in the year.
  • Manager / Facilitator tends to be the hardest role - it needs to be worked on, reinforced from teacher and peers.
  • Vary the group roles as needed, depending on the activity.
  • Customize roles you choose to match students’ abilities in process skills and make sense for your students and the type of activity.
  • Coordinate with other teachers that use collaborative group work so that the names and jobs of students are consistent from class to class, department to department.
  • Using roles effectively may be the most important factor in successfully implementing POGIL!

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