Process-oriented guided-inquiry learning (POGIL) is a method of science instruction that has been implemented under a research grant by the National Science Foundation (NSF) over the last eight years. The goal of POGIL is to help students simultaneously master discipline content and develop essential learning skills. Using the POGIL technique in my classes has molded my teaching philosophy into a more efficient and effective instrument of learning. It can be seen as a new strategy towards science literacy. It can also be seen as a way of getting students to stay interested in science. How ever one views POGIL, it is growing in popularity both with instructors and students across the United States because the research shows that retention rates go up and average test scores go up when this teaching method is used.

The POGIL teaching philosophy (Hanson 1) is based on the premise that people learn best when they are:

     1) actively engaged in analyzing data, models, or examples;
     2) discussing ideas;
     3) working together in self-managed teams to understand concepts and solve problems;
     4) reflecting on what they have learned and thinking about how to improve performance;
     5) and interacting with an instructor who serves as a guide or facilitator of learning rather than as a source of information.

To support this learning environment, POGIL utilizes self-managed learning teams, guided-inquiry materials based on the learning concept (see below), and metacognition (Hanson, 2).

The learning concept defined: Students work together in small groups (3 to 5) on activities that have been designed to guide them in turning knowledge into models of thought and applying these models to solving problems. Each part of an activity builds on the previous so that by the end of the exercise a functional understanding of the material has been created in the students mind.

I was introduced to the teaching method of POGIL in January of 2006 during a day long seminar in Folsom California. Even though the semester had already begun, I was able to use the new process immediately on my return to Columbia that next week. I tried it with three of the 12 major subject areas I teach in CHEM 10. What I found was a rise of 12 percentage points on an exam that I had given before with students taught by me the semester prior. Although this cannot be seen as a scientific study, I was intrigued. I thought I was a good instructor with high retention rates and high success rates already. So I had some questions that I wanted to investigate. How could releasing some of the educational process into my students hands make them do better? I already had a large amount of active learning going on in my classes anyway. How could I use this method to help my students the most?

Although I have not been able to do any comparative studies with controls like some large schools have done, I have looked at previous semesters that I didn’t have POGIL used and done some comparisons. In my quest to understand how POGIL works and how I could improve it, I read through all the material available that I could find. I began integrating the POGIL exercises written by others into my curriculum for chem 10 while adjusting what I lectured on in between each POGIL. I decided that introducing subjects with POGIL and then lecturing on that subject to fill in the gaps that I see in the POPGIL process was the most efficient way to use this process. Over the past two semesters, including two summer classes, I have used 18 to 20 POGIL exercises with lecturing supplementation for each chem 10 class. I have seen an 8.2% rise in final exam scores on average as compared with 2005 data. I have also seen retention rates as high as 84%; a rate that I have never attained before using POGIL. I am convinced that the students enjoy the process from their input during and after the classes. I however do not know if my excitement about the process has increased the retention rates more or less than the POGIL exercises themselves.

I am currently working on how I can write my own POGIL exercises for each course taught at Columbia College. It will take a Sabbatical to finish.

1) Hanson, D. M. (2006). Instructor's guide to process-oriented guided-inquiry learning. Lisle, IL: Pacific Crest.
2) Hanson, D. M. & Wolfskill, T. (2000). Process workshops: A new model for instruction. Journal of Chemical Education, 77, 120.