In the mid-1990’s, a group of chemists developed a new instructional approach to chemistry labelled Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning or POGIL. Since then it has grown significantly to included proponents in disciplines throughout arts, science, and the humanities. The word “Inquiry” indicates that the learning is accomplished by having students ask and solve questions, rather than just laying out the learning information for them. The “Guided” aspect is in opposition to “Open Inquiry”; the materials carefully guide the students rather than just “throwing them into the deep end”. It seeks to guide students to the needed information, while still preserving their inquiring engagement. “Process Oriented” implies that a major goal of the activity is helping students to develop the skill of learning - the process of knowledge acquisition, evaluation, and implementation. I have been working to implement or develop POGIL materials for both chemistry and nanoscience and I have come to several conclusions:
(1) student engagement is grounded in questions, not answers,
(2) POGIL materials need to consist mostly of questions, not statements,
(3) students need to have a tool with which they can interact to learn the relevant information,
(4) since students are more likely to challenge the statement of a peer than that of an instructor, they are more intellectually engaged in peer-to-peer learning as they are questioning the discussion, rather than just absorbing it, and
(5) students learn chemistry better within the context of relevant issues, rather than simply the chemistry itself.
I am developing new learning resources along these lines and will test them in the classroom in the future. I will arrange this so as to demonstrate the effectiveness of these tools compared to traditional POGIL materials (this is largely found in items 3 and 5 above) and as compared to the more standard lecture environment (which is different according to all 5 items above).