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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    POGIL – Innovations in Classroom Technique

    The National Science Foundation (NSF) recently awarded a team of researchers studying undergraduate education a $1.5 million grant, to be used in the development of an online system to evaluate student learning.

    Stony Brook faculty members David Hanson and Troy Wolfskill are working on a method of instruction known as Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning, or POGIL. They will be collaborating with professional team members from Franklin and Marshall College, Washington College, and Catholic University in a four-year project aimed at improving the teaching methodology of chemistry instructors nationwide.

    POGIL incorporates workshops and the traditional lecture format, and attempts to engage students by helping them to become aware of the process of inquiry, researchers said. Through discovery exercises and critical thinking questions, teachers, not texts, become the guides to their student’s questions.

    POGIL’s learner-centered approach has been utilized in a variety of classes and institutions, including SUNY Stony Brook. At Stony Brook, POGIL workshops were introduced in chemistry classes and subsequently, the rate of voluntary attendance at recitation sessions soared to as much as 90 percent. Performance on examinations reportedly improved for both high and low achievers.

    ‘I was having trouble with chem, but actually working in groups during the recitation and going through everything has helped me on the exams,’ said Sooraj Mehta, a freshman enrolled in General Chemistry. ‘[You’re not] just taking in all the information that’s thrown at you during lecture.’

    The most consistent benefit of the guided inquiry method across every institution, researchers said, was that it resulted in a substantial decline of failures and withdrawals.

    ‘igrave;Our collective experience in diverse instructional situations shows that students prefer the approach to traditional methods,’icirc; Hanson said. ‘More of them successfully complete their courses.’

    Hanson, Wolfskill, and their colleagues–Professors Richard Moog and James Spencer (Franklin and Marshall), Frank Creegan (Washington College), Andrei Straumanis (Sandia National Laboratory, formerly at Washington), and Diane Bunce (Catholic University)–have been working informally to develop and inform university communities about POGIL instruction.

    The team said the NSF grant allows them to establish a new, viable teaching program for prominent national application that will be an improvement upon current classroom methodologies. A systematic program, which includes a project website and experienced consultants and mentors, will guide and support teachers during the transition to POGIL-oriented instruction.

    At the end of the four year project, the team expects to have a consortium of about one hundred experts and beginner POGIL practitioners across the country. For more information, visit

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