What Does POGIL Stand For

Pogil is an acronym for “Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning.”

Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) is a method of inquiry learning that uses an instructional scaffold that enhances students’ skills for inquiry, critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and problem-solving.

It was developed by Eric Mazur and Alan Schoenfeld to take advantage of the benefits of hands-on learning, active engagement, student-directed activities, and peer collaboration found in discovery-based instruction (Eric M. Mazur, Alan H. Schoenfeld, “The evolution of research on inquiry-based learning”, Educational Researcher 33 (2004), 9).

What Does Pogil Stand For

So, How Does POGIL Works?

Teachers are guided by the Pogil method in three initial steps: 1) co-construction, 2) building knowledge, and 3) integration.

The first step of the method is co-construction, in which teachers create a group atmosphere within the classroom that empowers students to be active participants in their learning process.

Building on previous skills and prior knowledge, the teacher should guide students in thinking about questions or concepts they will address during the inquiry.

As students begin to develop their own inquiries, teachers should support them by asking questions that encourage them to think critically about the topic at hand.

To accomplish this step of co-construction, teachers may use an opening dialogue or general question that can guide students into critical thinking about the subject matter, formulate guiding ideas for the inquiry, ask guiding questions that encourage students to think independently about the topic at hand or create a guided inquiry model, which is an instructional approach that guides students through an inquiry process.

(Noel W. Anderson & John F. Magnotti, “Guided Inquiry Models in Science Education Investigating the Effects of Experience and Context on Student Performance,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 39 (2002), 1023-1041).

The second step of Pogil is building knowledge, which consists of a student-directed activity.

There are three components included in this step:

  • 1) the pre-activity phase where students develop questions related to the main inquiry;
  • 2) the activity phase where students work on the main inquiry;
  • 3) the post-activity phase where students share their learning (Robert H. Tai and Alan H. Schoenfeld, “A New Alignment of Theory and Practice: Meeting the Challenge of Guided Inquiry Learning,” Science Education 88 (2004), 528).

During the pre-activity phase, students develop questions related to the main inquiry.

For example, a science teacher may ask her class: “Which brand of salt will dissolve faster in water?” The first activity is for students to work individually to identify brands of salt and record their responses on random pieces of paper.

The second activity involves groups of four or five members, where each group is given a bag of salt.

The third activity involves the class as a whole, where students discuss their conclusions and which brands dissolved fastest in water (Robert H. Tai and Alan H. Schoenfeld, “A New Alignment of Theory and Practice: Meeting the Challenge of Guided Inquiry Learning,” Science Education 88 (2004), 530).

During the activity phase, students work in groups to experiment with their salt brands and fully investigate their questions.

In this step, students should also be given the opportunity to “fail forward,” where they can make mistakes without negative consequences (Robert H. Tai and Alan H. Schoenfeld, “A New Alignment of Theory and Practice: Meeting the Challenge of Guided Inquiry Learning,” Science Education 88 (2004), 532).

The final step takes place during the post-activity phase, which consists of students sharing their results with each other. This is an opportunity for teachers to reflect on the inquiry as a whole and discuss the scientific method as it applies to what the students learned.

In addition, teachers can also have students complete a questionnaire before and after the inquiry on student motivation, attitudes toward science, and confidence in their own abilities (Robert H. Tai and Alan H. Schoenfeld, “A New Alignment of Theory and Practice: Meeting the Challenge of Guided Inquiry Learning,” Science Education 88 (2004), 532).


Other Teacher Activities

The following are three different types of POGIL activities (also discussed above): independent, guided, and teacher-guided. Some POGIL activities include an assessment component in which students reflect on their learning at the end of the activity; in these cases, you will also find directions for grading POGIL activities in the teacher guide.

Independent POGIL Activity: These are also called student-centered activities since you, the teacher, play a minimal role in guiding students to construct knowledge on their own. You might pose questions on the instructional overhead at the beginning of class and assign some optional reading related to those questions. Then you can let students work in pairs or independently to discover information for themselves.

Teacher-Guided POGIL Activity: These are typically called teacher-centered activities. You begin by posing questions on the instructional overhead and assigning students to read related materials that you’ve selected.

Guided POGIL Activity: The name ‘guided’ POGIL activities is a bit misleading because you don’t actually guide students through the project. Instead, you use a question or task that leads them to read and research the topic in order to answer the question.

There are several ways that teachers can use POGIL activities with their students: independent, whole-class, and small-group activities.

Students work individually on the POGIL activity to complete an assignment: This is a flexible method of using independent or guided POGIL activities with individuals or pairs of students; you can do this more than once in the same class period.

Whole-Class Discussion: A teacher may want to use a POGIL activity as a class discussion. Pairs of students may be assigned the role of leader and partner; each pair shares what they learned during their independent or guided investigation, and then the whole class discusses possible answers to the question.


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