POGIL in the High School Chemistry Class: Objectives, Practices, and Outcomes

Team Roles

All too often teachers use POGIL activities as worksheets when the teacher is absent, busy work to review a topic, or handouts for homework. However, using the POGIL activities in this manner does not allow the students to reap all the benefits of the activity. This article is designed to give you a glimpse into what the POGIL process can do for you.

POGIL stands for Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning. What makes POGIL different from other instructional techniques is that the POGIL materials are designed for use with self-managed teams. The POGIL activities guide students through an exploration to construct understanding of the content while developing higher-level thinking skills. The students learn from each other in their team to formulate personal connections to the material while developing teamwork, leadership, and analysis skills along with concept mastery.

In order to have students engaged and interacting during POGIL activities I start the year off with some student buy in efforts. I mention how the skills they will learn in a POGIL activity are skills used in the work force such as communication and team work. We work through our first POGIL activity together to discuss how teams should manage themselves and I model good (and sometimes bad) team behavior. We come up with expectations we have for team work, which can also be used during lab work. And I try to stress the idea that learning is so much better than memorizing information.

A group is a collection of individuals who coordinate their individual work. A team is a number of individuals working together interdependently on a common goal. During POGIL activities, my teams need to work together because they get graded together. They are assessed on their content as well as their process skills. I grade portions of their work (which is easy since you only need to grade one per team) and I give them rubrics intended to help them reflect on how well they worked in class on items such as communication, teamwork, problems solving, critical thinking, and more. Many teachers don’t utilize or enforce the roles used during POGIL activities which results in less effective group work over more effective team work. You can use whichever roles work best for you. I use managers, ambassadors (recorder), readers, and analysts. I distribute a document to each team member that outlines their responsibilities. When each student is assigned a role in their team they are forced to work more interdependently. Team formation can be difficult. I tend to change teams every eight weeks or so. This way, the teams have time to settle in and get to know one another well and build up a good team dynamic, but also so the teams are always on their toes and get to know the whole class by the end of the year. Teams are always 3-4 students with varying abilities. That said, I suggest teachers avoid sitting their all-star student with the student who struggles the most. This will result in too much turmoil.




There is a lot to think about as a POGIL teacher. You want to ensure you do enough POGIL activities to reinforce the protocols you have set in place. But you do not have to do POGIL activities every day! I use only the activities created by the POGIL project because they have been field tested and formatted correctly and I only use the activities I love the most. When it is time to participate in a POGIL activity you have work to do! First, identify content knowledge goals and process skill goals and select or write the activity you would like to use. Plan how to promote process and content skill development through your facilitation and plan how you will ensure that students continue making progress. Last, plan how to bring closure to the class session. During the activity, circulate from team to team to listen to their communication and answers. Use a clipboard to keep track of good examples of team work and good responses. Moderate any disputes between team members. Don’t give away answers: ask more questions and refer back to the model. And you can always have great conversations with your teams when you go back to previous questions and have students explain their answers. When it is time to evaluate the work remember to evaluate the team work as well as the content. You can have students hand in one copy per group, fill out information online, use whiteboards, or whatever you want!

One additional reason that I love POGIL activities so much is that they seem to align beautifully with NGSS. The Cross Cutting Concepts are patterns, cause and effect, scale proportion and quantity, systems and system models, energy and matter, structure and function, stability and change. POGIL activities highlight these concepts by having students explore models to create their own pattern recognition. The students will use the provided models, charts and graphs with in the activity to determine scales, changes, and develop concepts on their own. The Science and Engineering Practices are asking questions and defining problems; developing and using models; planning and carrying out investigations; analyzing and interpreting data; using mathematics and computational thinking; constructing explanations and designing solutions; engaging in argument from evidence; and obtaining evaluating, and communicating information. POGIL activities help students ask questions about the models, analyze and interpret provided data, use mathematics and computational thinking while solving questions, constructing explanations for those questions, and possibly planning investigations in the applications sections of the POGIL activity. While working in the cooperative teams, students ask questions and engage in arguments using the evidence from the models while evaluating and communicating effectively. The NGSS Science and engineering Practices mirrors the POGIL process skills seamlessly.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out and consider attending POGIL workshops with passionate and knowledgeable POGIL staff and implementers. You may meet amazing people with fresh ideas, learn how to improve facilitation techniques, learn how to write POGIL activities, obtain resources and activities, and implement POGIL labs! If you are interested in learning more about the POGIL Project and workshops please visit www.POGIL.org. Available workshops include the Northeast Regional Meeting on July 10-12th, 2018 at Manhattan College, NY; the Northwest Regional Meeting on July 10-12th 2018 at the University of Puget Sound, WA; the North Central Regional Meeting on July 16-18th, 2018 at the University of Illinois, Chicago; and the South Central Regional Meeting on July 17-19th, 2018 at the University of Texas, Dallas.

Kristen Drury is a trained POGIL facilitator in New York. She has attended POGIL facilitator training and the National Conference for Advanced POGIL Practitioners (NCAPP) in 2017. Since then she has provided professional development to new POGIL practitioners across New York State as well as at the 2017 Northeast Regional Workshop. This summer Kristen will also be attending the POGIL National Meeting (PNM) as well as facilitating more workshops across the state including New York City’s 2018 Northeast Regional Meeting. Kristen was named the inaugural American Association of Chemistry Teachers (AACT) “Chemistry Teacher of the Year” award in the high school category.