Cooperative Learning (POGIL) Reflection

POGIL stands for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning.

Many students were in the room before the class started. The POGIL activity was the start of class, so to begin assigning groups, a sample set of desks were positioned and the facilitator asked students in the room to form groups of four and to arrange the desks according to the sample set of seats. Since there was an odd number of students, another instructor participated in a smaller group until other students arrived to class. They were instructed as they entered which group to attend.

Within the groups of four, each student was assigned a role for participation. The Document controller was responsible for double checking work before members record anything and was in charge of picking up/dropping off materials. The reader was to read all of the paper so that the order of the activity was followed by the whole group. The time keeper was to keep the flow of the activity on track to meet the needs of the facilitator. Finally, we used the manager role to keep everyone on task of their own work. These roles were assigned throughout the activity as needed, first being the document controller. Our group was very functional, each person performed their task well and worked to complete the task as a whole group. They were good to help create meaning to those who struggled to understand the present task. Even when there were people who were confused the group helped keep one another accountable for the work needed to be completed.

There were three major outcomes of this activity. The first was the understanding of what good Essential Questions looked like and how to create a good Essential Question. Another outcome was for participants to self asses and re-evaluate their essential question for the Understanding by Design assignment. The last outcome was for pre-service teachers to learn about the POGIL process as a teaching/group work strategy.

During the debrief after the completion of the activity, the conversation was clear that there were lessons already established using the POGIL model for many science classes, but math instructors would need to learn more about the process to develop and test their own lessons. I think this process might be useful in my future classes by using parts of the model to establish group work on a guided inquiry activity. The roles provided are useful to almost any group activity because they clearly state the participant’s responsibility in the group and then they agree with the responsibility of their role. Group roles can be used for any group activity and they are unique and serve a purpose (they are not meaningless group roles). I may use this type of activity when introducing new topics that are heavily scaffolded, I’m unsure of how to use this process for less structured activities.


4 thoughts on “Cooperative Learning (POGIL) Reflection

  1. Hi Riley-You wrote a great summary of the POGIL activity. I agree that there seems to be more lessons for science classes using POGIL than math classes. I too am thinking of ways to incorporate into a math class. I am wondering what are some of the less structured activities that you referring to?

    • Pam, I was thinking along the lines of like factoring trinomials. This is less of a process and more of a can-I-get-the-hang-of-this sort of lesson. I suppose it could be supported with a POGIL, I’m just not convinced this is the best method.

      When I say less structured, I’m thinking about my class where one of the major course goals is for students to problem solve independently, constantly asking “Does This Make Sense (DIMS)?” If I structure an activity where I ask them DIMS, then they are not learning how to problem solve, they are just blindly following my instructions. Sometimes, I think it’s important to let students run with a wrong idea to find out that it didn’t work and then help them discover where they should have asked DIMS!

  2. Hey Riley,
    Great breakdown of what our POGIL class looked like. I am coming from the science side of things and can see that there would be some good uses for this group style of learning. What I really liked is that students get to know all the roles throughout the year and become expert cooperators (or I guess I hope they would). I really like the idea of classes helping themselves.

    As for math, have you ever tried giving small groups a set of questions or equations that they haven’t seen before, and asked them to try and logic their way through them. They can use what they have already learned thus far in the year and it might have them struggle a bit but they ‘might’ (?) learn the process if you know where they are going to struggle and insert little hints to help them along.
    I know that math classes have a typical formula: read or teach new material or equations, do a number of examples and then set the kids free to do more examples. What if you flipped this process and gave them a bunch of examples to start with, giving them clues to help them come to the answer?

    • Thanks for the suggestions John, I actually found s great lesson to do with the POGIL activity and implemented it this past week. It was very interesting. I think the key to a POGIL in a math class is choosing the right topic to work on. For my class I had students work in teams asking a lot of questions about WHY the solution was a certain way and how they knew. I probed them with more questions to stretch their thinking.

      I think one of the keys was the introduction to the activity. I expressed the need for students to explore what happens when small changes are made. I was sure to encourage exploration and support them when they asked questions. This was a fun activity and I think the students gained a lot from the experience. Your suggestions would work too…your method sounds a lot like the Moore Method which has students explore their knowledge and present their results to the class. Thanks for the comment.

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