In college, most students are used to being talked at, not briefly talked to and left to their own devices. The power lecture is a black cloud of dread eternally hanging over student’s heads. At UW-Rock County though, I am trying to do my part to eliminate these one-sided sessions by employing a student-guided technique called the POGIL method.
POGIL stands for “process oriented guided inquiry learning”. It originated in chemistry departments back in 1994. The process revolves around students taking ownership of their work and creating their own hypotheses based on minimal guidance from professors like myself.
Students may be working on an activity with certain information given to them, but they must then come up with their own definitions for the results or trends they observe. Then, after they’ve taken ownership of the information, they will learn from the instructor what the actual definition for that phenomenon is.
Granting students independence helps them understand how to reach conclusions, but also fosters teamwork. That’s one of the core principles of the POGIL method, working collectively and efficiently. I use a role for each person in a group. One person’s job for each session is to pay attention to how well they’re working together as a group.
Every semester, at least a few students express displeasure over the method. I believe lecturing may resonate with some students more, but I believe in the POGIL method and am now used to at least one or two students a semester taking umbrage with my teaching method. I am always more than happy to explain my rationale though and ask the students to give it a chance.
I had a group of two students who came into my office, and it was about this time of the semester, and they said, ‘You need to lecture more,’ We talked about it a little more and I was able to find out what was going on in their group and with some coaching how they could work a little better with their colleagues…at the end of the semester they were the two biggest proponents.
I love teaching with this method, and another things that makes the [UW] Colleges special is, this method is very different than a typical classroom. Not everywhere would I be supported…and I do, I have complete support. My department is not only supportive…but had me do workshops for my colleagues…I value that.
POGIL isn’t meant to be used exclusively as a teaching tool. It’s also meant to demonstrate real-world skills to students, acclimating them to working in groups and problem solving on their own. I tell my students that absolutely no matter where you end up, even if you change your major, you will have to work as a team. You’re going to have to speak up, speak in front of a group, write new ideas, there’s a whole list I could give you.
POGIL is a prime example of grafting a unique teaching method to the perfect learning environment. I see myself as a coach for her students, and the hands-on classrooms helps me recognize students’ personal growth better than standing on a stage and lecturing for an hour. I give them goals, process-oriented goals to focus on that day and they do an analyst’s report on group skills. That you absolutely would not get any focus on in a more traditional “page on the stage” college lecture.