Why Use Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

Initial Publication Date: November 17, 2008

Effective Learning Strategy

Recent developments in cognitive learning theory as well as results of classroom research suggest that most students experience improved learning when they are actively engaged and when they are given the opportunity to construct their own knowledge. These results counter the widespread misapprehension that effective teaching must be instructor-centered, involving the transfer of content directly from the expert (professor) to the novice (student). More "student-centered" approaches to learning are based on the premises that students will learn better when: they are actively engaged and thinking in class; they construct knowledge and draw conclusions by analyzing data and discussing ideas; they learn how to work together to understand concepts and solve problems; and the instructor serves as a facilitator to assist students in the learning process.

Student Success

The effectiveness of POGIL has been assessed at a range of institutions and for a variety of courses (Farrell, J. J., Moog, R. S., and Spencer, J. N. (1999) J. Chem. Ed., 76, 570-574; Hanson, D., and Wolfskill, T. (2000) J. Chem. Ed., 77, 120-130; Hinde, R. J., and Kovac, J. (2001) J. Chem. Ed., 78, 93-99; Lewis, J. E., and Lewis, S. E. (2005) J. Chem. Ed., 82(1), 135-139). Several common, and important, outcomes are observed in all of these studies:

  • Student attrition is lower for POGIL than traditional methods.
  • Student mastery of content is generally higher for POGIL than traditional methods.
  • Most students prefer POGIL over traditional methods.

One measure of success is an increase in the percentage of students who earn a grade of C- or higher for an examination, or a course, or a sequent course, in comparison to students who have had more traditional instruction. One study (Lewis, S. E., Lewis, J. E. J. Chem. Ed. 2005, 82, 135-138.) compared two large general chemistry courses, both taught by the same instructor. In one course one of the three weekly lectures was replaced with multiple student-led POGIL sections of 16 students each (PLGI); the other section had traditional lecture (CNTL). Students in the course with POGIL sections (who had 33% fewer lectures) scored significantly higher on all exams, as shown in the figure.

We also consider success in terms of the development of process skills, which are much more difficult to measure. We have used the SALG as a measure of student perception of their own learning gains, in comparison to students with more traditional instruction. Some examples of these measures area available at the POGIL website and also in the ACS Symposium Series book on POGIL published by Oxford University Press.

Student Response

"This course's greatest strength was that the class was taught in a hands-on manner via all the group work. I learned so much just by discussing with my group." student comment

Students are the best advocates for POGIL. They report that they prefer POGIL to traditional methods of teaching as shown in the figure.

"The strength of this course was the style of teaching. All the activities and the homework allowed us to practice what we were being taught so that made learning the material easier. When you're actually able to take something you have learned and apply it and get it right, it makes you feel good and want to keep learning about it because you realize that you can do it." student comment