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5 week report


I am now five weeks into using the POGIl approach and I love it.  The students are engaged and thinking.  Most of the students have a positive attitude about the process.  I am staying at the same speed as the other chemistry teachers and my average test score is comparable.

There are problems as well.  First, I am struggling to lead the students back to the models instead of to the text or leading their thinking.  This is what I have heard from other teachers who are using POGIL.  I think this is where the workshop training would help tremendously.  I have also found that some groups are not working together as well as they should.  Some students feel they can get by without doing anything and others feel that the group is holding them back.  I think I have not been emphasizing the importance of the roles enough.  I plan on changing groups (keeping some together) and changing the format so that each person is more engaged.  I am struggling to lead a discussion after the learning workshops.  I think as I build that skill, the students will feel more involved in their roles.

Overall, I am very pleased at this point.  I can’t wait to see how they perform on the midterm and assess the format against my own classes from the past.

Do you have any suggestions to make POGIL more effective?




I wanted to share an email from that I received yesterday.

Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning in the Classroom and Laboratory:
NSF Sponsored Workshops (DUE-0618746, 0618758, 0618800)

3-Day Workshops In Your Region:
Grand Valley State University (Allendale, MI)
3-Day Workshop
Thursday, June 11th – Saturday, June 13th
Information and Online Application at:

University of Wisconsin (Platteville, WI)
3-Day Workshop Including Science Writing Heuristic
Thursday, July 30th – Saturday, August 1st
The NSF CCLI Program (DUE-0618708) is providing support for this event.
Information and Online Application at:

There is a $35 administrative fee, payable by each attendee following acceptance to all workshops.  Meals and lodging are included.

3-Day Workshops In Other Regions:

Salve Regina University (Newport, RI)
3-Day Workshop
Thursday, June 18th – Saturday, June 20th
Information and Online Application at:

Linfield College (McMinnville, OR)
3-Day Laboratory Workshop
Monday, June 29th – Wednesday, July 1st
Information and Online Application at:

Westminster College (Salt Lake City, UT)
3-Day Workshop
Thursday, July 9th – Saturday, July 11th
Information and Online Application at:

POGIL Southeast Regional Meeting at Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, GA)
3-Day Workshop
Monday, July 27th – Wednesday, July 29th
Information and Online Application at:

There is a $35 administrative fee, payable by each attendee following acceptance to all workshops.  Meals and lodging are included.

3-Day POGIL Workshop Description
The three-day POGIL workshop provides an opportunity for faculty with diverse backgrounds and experiences to learn more about POGIL and its implementation.  The workshop is designed, through a combination of parallel and plenary sessions, to be valuable to a full range of interested people – from those with little or no prior experience with POGIL to those who are experienced POGIL implementers and everyone in between.  Participants with relatively little experience or knowledge of POGIL will learn the basics of POGIL pedagogy and philosophy, including an introduction to classroom facilitation and activity structure and design.  More experienced participants will have opportunities to improve their facilitation and activity-writing skills.  Those participating in the three-day laboratory workshop will focus exclusively on implementing POGIL in the laboratory.

Typical workshop components include:
*POGIL pedagogy and philosophy
*POGIL classroom simulations
*Designing and writing POGIL activities
*Facilitating POGIL in the classroom
*POGIL laboratory approach

To as great an extent as possible, the workshop will be tailored to the interests and needs of the attendees.  Examples of possible additional topics include:

*Discussing specific materials for specific courses
*Addressing specific issues from past attempts to facilitate POGIL
*Overcoming barriers to implementation
*Training and supervising teaching assistants
*Implementing in large classrooms
*Integrating process skills into a classroom / written activity
*Providing opportunities for peer review of written activities
Support for this work is provided by the National Science Foundation’s Course, Curriculum, and Laboratory Improvement Program under grants DUE – 0618746, 0618758 and 0618800.

To learn more about POGIL and the POGIL Project, please visit the POGIL website (

I wanted to go the workshop in MI, but I will still be in school thanks to all of the winter weather (and hurricane winds) we’ve had this year.  However,  I am trying to talk my wife into letting me go to Rhode Island.

Have you ever been to a three day POGIL workshop? If so, how was it?

Schedules and Daily Quizzes


So, I have really gotten a feel for how I am going to run this course.  We are just over a week into class and things have been going very well.  The comment was made today that the class time seems to fly by.  I was really excited to hear that.  I have noticed that I am keeping pace (+/- 1 day) with the other (standard courses).  This is good news when it comes to implementing this inquiry approach to all of my sections of chemistry.

The daily format works as such:

  1. Daily Quiz
  2. Review Daily Quiz
  3. New material (lecture or discussion so far, we try a small POGIL approach tomorrow)
  4. Process Workshop (group/lab work)
  5. Wrapup
  6. Assign Homework

The biggest change I have seen in my students is that they are keeping up with their work.  The daily quizzes are wonderful for keeping track of where the students are and showing the students the important topics.  I give them a quiz each day over the topic of the previous day.  I have one rule when writing one of these quizzes: The question must not be a throw away question.  That is, it must relate to the real-world and be in depth.  This is harder to do than I first thought.  Because each quiz is only one or two questions, the students take more time and effort into answering it than they would a 50 point test.  They take the time to reflect on what the question in asking.  Today, the question was:

A student was working in the lab.  She mixed two beakers of different volumes together.  Using the data below, what was her final volume.

Beaker A – 98.53 mL

Beaker B – 0.2 L

This combined significant figures and metric conversions.  The discussion after the quiz focused on the significant figures as must students had not considered them.  This as been a big problem in our chemistry classes.  During the lab we worked on later (pg 8 in the course guide), the students considered the use of sig figs in their answers.

So far, the quiz scores have been good and, more importantly, improving.

That is my big news for today.

Do you do a daily quiz in your class? What are your rules for writing good questions?

Snow Days


A quick personal note today.  Hopefully you noticed that I haven’t added anything recently.  This is because I have had no new data to post.  The semester just finished last week.  I put out a quick survey of my students.  I found that after an introductory chemistry course, my students felt unsure about the nature of science and how chemistry relates to their lives.  They have a basic understanding of the theory of chemistry.  

The new semester started on Monday.  I began to implement my instructional strategies, but I haven’t seen my students since as we had a small snow storm.  That is 3 inches of snow followed by 2 inches of ice, then 3 inches of snow.  The temperature is low enough at night that everything refreezes.  Instead of teaching, I have been hanging out with my six month old beagle puppy.  Anyone have ideas on domesticating a wild dog?  If you know Beagles, you’ll understand what I mean.


My Beagle, PVnRT

My Beagle, PVnRT



So, hopefully, I will be able to close the week with my students.

On top of this the Ohio Department of Health will be inspecting our school in February for school safety (part of Jarod’s Law).  I will be helping the administration prepare for this.  Prepare for the first entries involving my classroom experience sometime mid next week.

Random Notes


I tried out a POGIL activity with my chemistry class today.  This class has taught using traidtional chemistry curriculum.  I am introducing hte idea of POGIL to them and will pilot a unit on acids and bases next week.  I thought I would introduce the equlibirum unit using a actvity I found from the POGIL website (see the links).  Just from the students comments and questioning, it went really well.  They enjoyed the material and learned dynamic equilibriums and Le Chatelier’s Principle.  It took almost an hour to complete.  I will give a short quiz tomorrow.  Now that I have tried it, I am more excited than I was.

I finished the course guide for next semester earlier than I had planned.  I have modified (or retyped in some cases) POGIL activities, labs, and material from other teachers.  I have given credit to the original authors at the end of each activity.  I posted it on my student website.  Find the PDF file here!  So, again, I am not claiming any of this to be original, but if you are interested in which labs I will be using, here they are.  I do plan on creating some original POGIL exercises as I get my feet wet.  I will post these as they come along.  

Finally, did you know that the ACS put together a book for applying the national standards to the chemistry classroom.  Oh, and it is FREE online!  I personally, found the chapter on the life science standards remarkable.  I don’t know how NCLB has played out in your state, but in Ohio, we have a 10th grade graduation test.  Because I teach mostly juniors, coorelating to the standards hasn’t been on the forefront of my mind.  But this has opened my eyes to the standards from a chemistry teachers perspective.  

From the website:

Chemistry in the National Science Education Standards, Second Edition, provides models for meaningful learning in the high school chemistry classroom. This valuable resource addresses the science education standards specified by the National Research Council and other issues of interest relevant to the current educational landscape.

High school chemistry teachers and administrators, university chemistry and science education faculty, and professional development providers will recognize this resource as a useful and timely text.

What’s new?

  • Updates on addressing the National Science Education Standards
  • New chapters on technology, English Language Learners, student misconceptions, learning research, AP Chemistry redesign and more…
  • Practical, classroom-tested examples of best practices in secondary chemistry education
  • Recommended Web sites and additional readings

Find it here:

Chemistry in the National Science Education Standards.

More chemistry education news and thoughts as I get them… Any and all comments are welcome!

Four Types of Inquiry


I came across this great article in International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education titled “Facilitating Chemistry Teachers to Implement Inquiry-Based Laboratory Work” (2007, 6: 107 – 130).  Basically, Dr. Derek Cheung implemented inquiry labs into seven classrooms in Hong Kong.  Cheung,  a Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at The Chinese University of Hong Kong, inserviced the teachers on inquiry and met several times with them throughout the research.

My goal next semester is to implement POGIL activities, inquiry lab work, and practical tests.  I have focused by reading on POGIL and I felt that this would be a great source for inquiry labs.  It was!  I wanted to share some of the major points of the article.

There are four levels of inquiry:

  1. Confirmation Inquiry – verifying concepts by following a procedure
  2. Structured Inquiry – following a procedure to find an answer
  3. Guided Inquiry – Teacher provides a question, students design an experiment to find answer
  4. Open Inquiry – Students ask the question, then find the answer

Cheung recommends that most of class time should be spent in guided inquiry. This also fits with the POGIL approach, but focusing on the laboratory.

 He then gives six criteria for implementing these labs:

  1. The laboratory work should be designed as a guided inquiry rather than an open inquiry
  2. The guided inquiry must engage students in solving real-world problems
  3. The solution to the guided inquiry should not be predictable
  4. The teacher should require a few groups of students to present their experimental plan orally so that a feasible procedure for collecting data can result from a consensus approach
  5. Teacher questioning is critically important during student oral presentations
  6. Assessmesnt criteria must be given to students in advance

I think these two lists provide a decent framework for creating an inquiry based chemistry classroom.  I hope to focus my classroom within the structured inquiry and guided inquiry bands.  However, I hope to implement one or two open inquiry labs.

I also found some other good information from Dr. Cheung concerning inquiry lab examples and multiple choice assessments.

What type of labs do you do in your classroom?  Share them here!

Chemistry for all


A guiding principle that I have is that chemistry is for all students.  So, I want to make my classroom as hospitable of an environment as possible.  In college, I developed an interest in women’s studies.   It happened in my freshman English course and resulted in taking some courses later on.  Last week when I came across an article from a 1999 issue of the Journal of Chemistry Education titled, “What is Feminist Pedagogy? Useful ideas for Teaching Chemistry,” (JCE, vol. 76, No. 4) I was more than intrigued.  As it turned out, this article was focused on developing a chemistry classroom in which everyone benefits.  Isn’t that what we are all trying to do?  Someof the useful ideas were:

  • bringing in student ideas
  • cooperative learning
  • de-emphasizing the role of the teacher as mentor
  • providing an environment where students can find a voice

These are also some of the guiding priciples behind POGIL.  The authors also suggested the developement of Problem Based Learning (PBL) as a successful approach.  By applying the ideas of inquiry into natural sceince, we not teach the national standards, but also benefit all students and especially those marginalized students.

From that same issue of JCE, I found another article relevent to this discussion.  “Improving Teaching and Learning Though Chemistry Education Research: A Look to the Future.”  This article suggests that “one reason why student’s find chemistry difficult is that in the laboratory, they make observations at the macroscopy level, but instructors expect them to interpret their findings at the mircoscopic level.  The author suggests a possible pattern for overcoming this problem.

For example, a common laboratory activity at the secondary level that students do not understand well is the electrolysis of water.  […]  Students could be asked to draw partile pictures of equal samples of the hydrogen and oxygen in the two test tubes and relate this to the volume of the two gases.  they could be asked to calculate the volume of water that would be decomposed to produce the volume of gases that they had collected, and then to compare their calculated volume of water to the difference in water volume of the system before and after electrolysis. (pg 549)

This step-by-step processing and going back and reviewing the data is the basis of POGIL.  In fact, both of these articles drive to the theory behind POGIL.  POGIL is a form of inquiry that allows students to communicate and become authorities within small groups while building up to the major conceptual ideas.  If you are unfamilar with POGIL, check out I will post more info about it as well as the material I will use in class next semester, after winter break.