POGIL Conference – Portland, OR – July 27-29

As part of a KSTF Professional Development Grant, I was able to attend the Northwest Regional Conference for POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). In an effort to meet my obligations for the grant, I will post the implementation plan approved as part of the grant and then comment on the outcomes for those specific action items. In this commentary, I will provide the learning from the conference and links to tools learned along the way.

June – July

Read for about 2 hours different published POGIL activities from math or science disciplines to see their successes, challenges and recommendations for improving POGIL in the classroom. Additionally, I will collect and review my previously created POGIL-like activities to compare my lessons with those created using the POGIL process. Conduct an internet search of leading questions (or directives) that could be used in the classroom environment to extract deeper responses from students (such as “can you tell me more about that?”) and make a list. Throughout the implementation of this plan, I will refine this list as I find what is and isn’t appropriate to foster learning.


July KSTF Meeting

Talk with other KSTF fellows about their practice of group activities, particularly science teacher who have lab classes. Since POGIL activities are similar to the group work and inquiry of a science lab, experienced science teacher may have tools for asking questions of students that lead to critical thinking in the inquiry activity. I am looking for questioning strategies when other teachers are working with groups.


July 27-29 (POGIL Conference)

Attend POGIL Workshop: Portland, OR. – I will begin on the Introductory Track for the workshop since I have no formal experience with POGIL. During the workshop, I will learn about the process and structure of the POGIL activity, list student learning outcomes from a POGIL activity and create plans for implementation of POGIL in my classroom. POGIL implementation includes facilitation tools for teachers that include questioning and keeping students engaged. I will use this learning for facilitation questioning to refine my bank of questions. Additionally, I will attend workshops about the Activity Structure of a POGIL (creating a framework for learning) and Writing Learning Objectives for the activities.


August – December

Create a clear classroom procedure for students to teach them how to positively engage in group, inquiry learning. I will Implement this procedure for my Algebra and Geometry classes in the fall when using group work. Additionally, I will create a POGIL lesson for my classroom and I will share out with other staff members to increase success in their classroom. In creating these activities, I would like to work with an instructional coach (provided by the school district) or a colleague to ensure effectiveness. Finally, I will continue to incorporate open ended questions (probing and clarifying questions otherwise known as socratic questioning) during my regular teacher to help extract deeper, more thoughtful responses to my students.


HOPE Reflection H2 – Honor Access to Content

H2 – Honor student access to content material. Teacher candidates use multiple instructional strategies, including the principles of second language acquisition, to address student academic language ability levels and cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Many regard mathematics as a second language. Mathematica notation and use of mathematical vocabulary areLessonPlan LessonPlan 1essential to learning this topic. At the school where I work, all students are fluent english language speakers, it is unusual to encounter a language barrier in communication. Most of the language acquisition problems are through the understanding of mathematical language. To address this HOPE standard, math teachers must make the mathematical language more accessible by planning in vocabulary acquisition and teaching concepts and then naming the concepts.

The evidence I am presenting is two photocopies of some lesson plans where I am introducing two new topics. The first I am introducing students to sequences and series. In this lesson, students start with the Entry Task (ET) and are asked to complete “the list of numbers”. Since these are the teacher’s notes, the ideas are just brief notes. After the entry task, the plan is to formally put a name to “a list of numbers” which we will call a sequence. Similarly, as the lesson continues, I plan on clearly indicating and showing students the notation and the vocabulary for the notation about how to write a sequence. When I introduce combinations and permutations on the second lesson plan, I first mention “what are the possibilities of rolling two dice?” This removes technical language, the words “combination” and “permutation” and “the basic multiplication principle” are not even mentioned until the next day in class when students have acquired the conceptual understanding.

By removing the barrier of technical language students feel more comfortable with the content. The teacher will avoid the use of confusing language, but if a student uses improper language (such as the note about the difference between probability and odds in the lesson plan), the teacher will address the students misuse of language and avoid confusion of the vocabulary in the future. The HOPE standard is met because the teacher is planning for proper language acquisition and preparing students to understand content and then later naming that content when students struggle for a word to name the idea.

Over the course of my teaching internship, I have build knowledge and understanding of how to introduce new ideas to students without complicating the matter. From creating lessons that revolve around language acquisition and notation, I have learned that while I may have a deeper, technical understanding of mathematics, many students do not, and become intimidated by advanced language. By using lower level language, many of my challenged students become engaged.

Since many students are apprehensive about mathematics, this technique for introducing new ideas is helpful for students who are overwhelmed by math language and concepts. Providing instruction in an order that is helpful not to overwhelm students is important, especially in mathematics where there is a risk for pushing students away from the topic. To improve my understanding of this program standard, I will need to interact and prepare planning for more students who have different language needs, especially english language learners or those who lack significant mathematical skills. Since this HOPE standard is similar to Differentiation, I hope to address language acquisition, use of language and assisting english language learners as an improvement to my practices in differentiation.

Instructional Strategies Observation

This observation compares two very different types of instruction instruction strategies between STEM related topics. The first strategy is project- and inquiry-based instruction the other is a game to demonstrate a concept. In the first class, a class titled “The Physics of Flight,” students are tasked with creating a protection system for a payload on a bottle rocket they will launch at the end of the week. Students are provided a budget, materials and a critical friend who must approve the design before the build. Students must use their knowledge of drag, friction, air pressure and mass (topics of physics) to design their payload protection system to minimize damage. Students who are careful with their design and focus on the prior knowledge built more robust systems.

The project is a long term project where students will revise their plans and rebuild their payload protection system many times as they learn more about the physics required for flying and space. What I like about this project and instructional strategy is that it is very real world. Students have to work within a budget, they need to be creative, their plans need to be approved by a critical friend and finally they can actually build and test their end product and have the opportunity to revise their original plans. I asked a student about what they would do differently, they mentioned that they would not have used such heavy material to protect their payload because the mass is difficult to slow down when the object is falling. They need a lighter protection system to be slower. I think these students are really learning about the concepts of physics in a real world environment. Some students were confident in their protection systems and the teacher didn’t challenge their thinking much after they took their mind off the task. If I were to provide feedback I would encourage this teacher to talk one on one with the students who claimed they were done and ask them about how their learning changed design elements on their product. This would re-engage these students who felt they already knew how to do the activity well. I think that mathematical modeling is one of the most useful applications of math, so I may use the project based strategy to provide a project for my students to apply their math knowledge to the real world.

The other instructional strategy that I observed was a game to unpack a scientific concept. The students were studying the carbon cycle and the teacher wanted to emphasize that particles of carbon get stuck in different areas. For instance, carbon that forms oil will be stuck in the ground for a long time until it is drilled up and then moved through the air as oil emissions. Students played a game were each student was a carbon molecule and they started evenly distributed. Students would roll dice and read a legend to determine their fate as a carbon. Some tabled became very full while others were less full because carbon stays in certain forms longer. Students recorded their fate and then at the end of the game the teacher had students discuss what happened to their molecule. I think this was beneficial since it was an activity where students could move around the classroom and see/feel what a carbon would be in the larger scheme of the carbon cycle. I especially liked that the class debriefed the activity so that those student who could not make the conclusion about the activity could be clued into what learning was supposed to take place. This type of activity could implemented in a statistics unit where randomness can be visualized.

Between these two instruction strategies, I think they were both effective because they had clear goal for the students and were well planned out. Students were able to articulate the goals of the activity and the activity was differentiated so learning could be achieved despite different learning styles. The take away from these observations was that I need to incorporate more movement into my classroom and differentiate instruction with intentional activities for students.