Summer of POGIL: Reflections and Teaching Tips

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The summer is an ideal time for reflection, a time to process and grow as an educator. This summer I was fortunate enough to attend the POGIL® National Meeting at Washington University in Saint Louis as well as assist as one of the facilitators at the Northeast Regional Meeting at Manhattan College. While there are numerous ways to spend your summer vacation, I wanted to share some reasons why POGIL® draws me in time and again.

 

The POGIL® project offers a unique blend of teachers at both the secondary and post-secondary level the opportunity to collaborate together. POGIL® workshops create the sharing of ideas and resources across levels in a comfortable setting that helps foster connections that typically would not be made otherwise. Sometimes I think high school teachers feel vulnerable asking for the assistance of collegiate faculty for content and college professors hesitate to ask about a particular pedagogical technique to help students understand through non-lecture based strategy. This particular summer I engaged with numerous POGIL® practitioners who were open enough to seek advice as well as provide support, which was a wonderful experience.

 

While I have been using POGIL® in my classroom for the past ten years, every conference makes me reflect on areas of improvement. This year my students did a fantastic job in role development, however I recognize the need for improvement of student process skills in the upcoming year. I was able to listen to an awesome presentation from Juliette Lantz about the ELIPSS (Enhancing Learning by Improving Process Skills in Stem). ELIPPS, a NSF funded project, examines active learning in STEM classrooms, utilizing validated rubrics as an assessment of student process skills in written work as well as student interactions. The process skills described in this workshop included: teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, interpersonal communication, written communication, metacognition, assessment, management and information processing. When completing a POGIL® activity students are learning content for the first time and are required to work in a team, taking on a specific role. While I admit it is challenging to focus on both the ability of the students to learn new content and develop their process skills during a POGIL® activity, I was reminded of the importance of assessing students on these process skills as these are the soft skills employers are seeking. How often is a group progressing through an activity but not functioning as a team and maybe a sub-set of two members are working on their own. While the group may finish the activity if their teamwork was being assessed in addition to how well they completed the content, the group would be held accountable and grow from this. Teachers that register for a free account on the ELIPSS Project website, gain  access to rubrics to try in their classes. An implementation guide is available to get you started. If you are headed to BCCE this year, try to attend one of the workshops being offered on process skills!
 
This past year I started using the process skills rubrics, offering five points for content and five points for process skills for a particular activity. The process skill rubrics, provided by ELIPSS include a definition of the process skill and categories for this process skill and a score from 0-5. I cut up the rubrics and laminated them for my students to be aware of how they will be assessed. This was the first year I assessed process skills in a POGIL® activity and had a slow start but will definitely incorporate more next year as both my students and myself found merit in the process. If we have successfully taught our students about what process skills are and how to find evidence of them in their work, then we have increased their ability to gain employment. This should provide a feeling of accomplishment for us as our students leave our classrooms, even if they are not going to pursue chemistry.
 
At a poster session at the Northeast Regional meeting, Clif Kussmaul talked about research using a swivl™ as a tool to record multiple student interactions. Students and the teacher are recorded and then the data is uploaded to determine the amount of student and teacher interactions and to give a break down of the amount of time that the teacher is talking versus the amount of time students have to interact with one another as well as the amount of time it is quiet in the classroom. This technology is priced at about $700. If funds are tight, this could be a great reason to submit a Hach grant. How often as a high school teacher I use POGIL® or other collaborative group activities and wish I could hear what all groups are saying but obviously can not be in multiple places at once and often miss some group interactions. Moreover, this provides a means to ensure that the teacher is indeed guiding or observing and not talking too much. It is challenging at times to not provide too much information up front balancing student struggle and progress in a particular activity. Growth mindset is a hot topic now, often for our students, but how are we as educators growing as well, this tool provides an interesting way to ensure our goals in the area of student to student communication are being met.
 

Another tool, I learned about at the POGIL Northeast Regional meeting was a reusable notebook called ROCKETBOOK ($27). When using the notebook, you write with a Frixion pen which can be purchased at a variety of stores such as Target, Office Depot or online at Amazon. The pens write in the notebook and then the pages are uploaded via an app that scans them to a location of your choosing. The notes can be erased and the notebook reused over and over again. In a POGIL® classroom, the notebook can be used by the group reflector and then sent to google drive and shared with the team for reference later. Additionally, the ROCKETBOOK can serve as a mini whiteboard for those that may not have them in a classroom or a place for students to complete a bell-ringer and exit ticket and then upload to a learning management system such as Google classroom or Microsoft teams.

 

In summary, take time this summer to reflect on the content and pedagogy you utilize in the classroom. The POGIL® philosophy is overwhelming to newcomers, even if one can take one aspect and implement piece by piece, that approach is not shunned. For one practitioner, full blow implementation may be effective, while for others, more strict adherence to roles may be an appropriate goal and yet for others more formal assessment of student process skills.