Tag Archives: POGIL

7th Grade POGIL-Based Mathematics Lessons

I wanted to start a blog post where I could demonstrate some POGIL-based lessons that I have been generating.  POGIL is short for “Process-Oriented Guided-Inquiry Learning”, and I might describe it as:

  • students work in groups, where roles are defined
  • students work through material that has inquiry as its goal or major method
  • teacher acts as supporter, clarifier and coach, but not as answer-giver or lecturer

So here some links, in a table, and what I learned/observed from presenting them.

Lesson Title and Link Date First Delivered Observations
Percent Review 11/07/2011 Was hoping to get at the difference between amount of discount and discounted price.  I feel based on a quiz given that students were clear on that point.

The lesson also covered some simple conversions between percents, decimals and fractions, as well as the notion of converting words in a sentence to symbols in a “math sentence”, e.g. “50% of 100 is what” can be written as “.5 * 100 = ?”

Graphs Review 11/14/2011 This one took two class periods, but I feel that students were much better at computing slope afterwards.  Need a summative assessment to be sure, however.
Area and Volume Review [not yet]  

Essential Tools for Creating Math Problems: GeoGebra and Google SketchUp.

I’m writing some of my own POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) lessons for a seventh-grade math class.  For a worksheet on area and volume, I’ve found GeoGebra and Google SketchUp.

Here some samples I’ve created.

What is area of this triangle? Show your work.


What is the volume of this cone?

What is the circumference of this circle? What is the area of this circle?


A pyramid has the indicated dimensions, what is the volume of this pyramid?


Seven identical holes, with diameter 1 meter are drilled through a large piece of metal with dimensions shown. What is the volume of metal in the resulting shape?



Internship Reflection Week of 2011-11-14 [12] (CSI Elective and Math Classes)

Reflection Monday 11/14/2011

This is a reflection on 3 hours of instruction that I did today.

Today was the start of the third series of the 8-week "Science Behind CSI: Crime Scene Investigators" middle school elective that I am teaching at my school. We have a smaller group this time, only 4 students, whereas in the past we have had as many as 7 and 8. Dan D. (my mentor teacher) and I imagine that this may be the last time we offer the elective. That works fine for me since an SAT prep course may be starting up in February, and I have started to do more math instruction in the middle school, for all our middle school students.

"Science Behind CSI" Middle School Elective, Series 3, Session 1

For the introductory session of the CSI course I try to get all of us on some common ground about what crime scene investigators do, as a role and as a potential career option (if students take STEM especially, i.e. Science, Technology, Engineering, Math). I also go into a little bit of the history of criminalistics (e.g. Sherlock Holmes, among others) and forensics as an overall category of work that is done to support the criminal justice system in this country. Pretty broad and deep themes, even though they masquerade under the title of the course which alludes to a popular television show.

I have a bad habit of saying "so" and "um" a lot in my instruction. [Actually I say it a lot in
everyday conversation as well, if you have noticed this and not told me, feel
free now because I am confessing it to you, and acknowledging that I need to
work on it.] I tried to work on that today, consciously suppressing the need to verbalize as a connector for thoughts or transitions between ideas. I also have noticed in viewing my films–since I have filmed almost every course I have taught here since September and uploaded many to Vimeo–that I often get so caught up in the flow of the course that I brush off really good questions or statements from students. I endeavored to alter that today, by really following up on every idea that was presented and either incorporating it into the discussion or capturing for a future class. This capturing piece was suggested by Dan D. and involves a simple flip chart where I write certain topics that come up in class that I don’t want to blow off and I may want to cover in a future class. I can also ask one of my high school teaching assistants in the class to follow up on the topic and make a presentation.

Two students seemed to be very engaged today, very chatty and throwing out ideas, the others were much less talkative, and the fifth had to put his head down on the desk for a little rest at the beginning. I have noticed in my other interactions with some of these students that they could grow in their comfort level of sharing their ideas with the group. We will work on that.

Math Class for Middle Schools Session 1 & Session 2

Today I taught two more math classes (2 sessions of same content) in the Middle School on a POGIL (process oriented guided inquiry learning) model. The students are getting much more used to the way this type of class operates. Initially there was some resistance to each student having to change roles in the groups which they had been assigned last week. I assured them that the rotation of roles was to help them get better at all roles and not let them stagnate in a given role which they were inclined to like or feel more comfortable in. There was still some grumbling but most folks were able to get over it and start working.

I tried to spend more focused time in each group (or at least the groups that had trouble focusing or were loudest in the room), and help coach individual students in their roles. I would say things like "B. as manager you would say something like: ‘is everyone done with this page/question, can we move to the next." That seemed to go pretty well, and I think Dan D. or Mrs. B. got it on tape, which I will review soon.

We started each hour with a quiz, two questions on the document projector, which each student solved on a 1/4 sheet, and then handed to their neighbor to grade. I have to be careful here since students are not clearly differentiating between group time and individual time. I’m not yet ready to say that there is a flaw in the instruction process, but it seems unfair for students to say they have passed their quiz and then grade their own, but also write down/correct their answers. I will get with Mrs. B. in specific cases where I believe that occurred. I am most worried that students that are higher achievers may get disenchanted with the whole group learning process if they don’t feel they can excel or get differentiated results. That is a whole larger discussion, which I would also like to treat in a separate blog post, namely "are high achievers always bought into the group learning model? Or, do they defect actively or passively?"

I then had the technicians (a specific role that each of the 3 groups of 6 students has) come up and get the worksheets that we were using that day. I gave them instructions that they were to pass on to their groups and later checked up on them, but I’m not sure it worked. Namely, when I went to a group and asked if they understood the instructions that I had hoped would have been passed on it was quickly clear that those instructions were not passed on.

A couple more things I noticed…

o sometimes students want to work ahead, what is the official POGIL thinking on that?

o sometimes groups just get off-track, what is the best way to bring them back?

o one group had followed a more proficient student right down the path to getting a wrong answer and all agreeing on that answer, how can you coach students to prevent that?

o there are some bugs in the document I produced I should fix those before the next run…

Monday 11/7 Class Reflection

Today was full of student exhibitions, the “Science Behind CSI” elective, and a POGIL-based math class with the middle schoolers at Big Picture Middle School. Last week Dan D. and I met with Mrs. B. who agreed to let me pilot some process-oriented, guided-instruction learning (POGIL) in her classroom. I prepared a lesson worksheet [Word doc on Google docs] on percents, with application to computing discounts and sale prices. Since the middle school is only two classrooms of approximately 17 students each, each of the 2 groups of students rotate into Mrs. B.’s classroom during separate periods for math class on Mondays. Here’s some of my reflection on how it went.

Since I am familiar with some of the students based on the CSI elective, and the computer science elective that I did last Friday, I didn’t have as many student names to learn. We started each class with a short introduction of who I was and what we would be trying to do in the class. I handed out the description of POGIL roles [PDF on Google docs], and briefly read them with the class. The students were then asked to get into the groups that Mrs. B. had pre-defined. After they got into groups they divided themselves into roles. I asked them to write down on their description sheets the name of each person doing each role. Once the Technicians (or was it the Spokespersons?) were defined, I asked each group to send that student to me so that I could give them the handouts. I also gave the Technician some brief instructions as they looked at the lesson worksheets.

Once all groups had the worksheets and had the roles pretty well defined, I circulated to make sure the groups were getting a good start on the worksheets, and were making progress. Most groups in both periods were able to get to the bottom of page 3-where they actually had solved the problem of the day-during the 50 minutes of class time. At the end of class I announced that when I returned to the class we would do a quick quiz on the material of this day’s lesson. Mrs. B. also announced that the 5 questions on page 4 would be used as extra credit, if they handed them in.

Dan D. (my mentor teacher) and I were able to talk briefly after class. What follows are some of my reflections on session 1 (S1) and session 2 (S2) of the class.

o in both S1 and S2 students in some groups had some friction deciding who would fulfill the roles, although the groups were well-defined prior to class by Mrs. B. the roles were not. In both S1 and S2, paper-rock-scissors was used to break ties on group roles.
o as I circulated through the class, I was focused on material being covered via the worksheet, I also did some role-specific coaching e.g. “student B, as manager you should…” or “student X, as document control person remember to …” Upon reflection, building a robust understanding of the group roles is essential to this model, and a group with good participation from the roles will make progress on the material.
o in S1 there was a student in on group who refused to participate, and wanted to read comic books instead. I realize now that with some patient re-direction (and frequent visits back to that group) the chances of her participation would have increased. To put it more emphatically, if you let one student turn out, that sentiment will spread undermining the whole group.
o in S2 there was one group that had some group conflict (inappropriate, derogatory remarks, name-calling) which Mrs. B. took into hand. However, that group never really regained a level of effective collaboration that other groups had. The scenario within this group is interesting so let me dwell on it briefly. The range of abilities within the group was wide. One student refused to participate with the group and merely worked the worksheet by themselves. Another student demoralized by the bickering in the group also worked alone, and when asked to share with the group said “I don’t want them copying me!”. For the former student, I made the mistake of facilitating the “checked out” behavior by checking answers on the final page myself. A better strategy would have been to point him back to the group and asking him to work out his answers with them. The student worried about copying has a valid concern if the grade is the most important thing to them or to what they perceive as success in the class. Given more time (and more presence of mind next time), I would remind the student that they will get better if they also seek to explain and support their group.
o there were a couple of items on the worksheet that could have used some group clarification. The challenge is figuring out a good time to announce clarifications to the whole room. I could have done it through Spokespersons however an idea which did not occur to me at the time.
o in S1 I had Spokespersons come to the front of the room and, using the document camera, present some of their results. That seemed to work moderately well as long as the students felt comfortable in front of the group, and could use the document camera effectively or with little stress.
o in S2, I sat at the document camera and asked the Spokespersons in each group to call out their solutions, I don’t think that was an effective alternative to what I had done in S1, but worth a try.
o one of the common confusions in both S1 and S2 was the answer to “what is 20% of 15”, some students insisted that the answer was $12, which is the overall answer to the problem of the day, but not an answer to the question as written. This also came out in answers to the exercises at the end, namely that students were confused about the amount of the discount versus the new price of the item which is original price minus discount. In S2, I attempted to make this clear by asking Spokespersons to the center of the room to answer the question together. Calling Spokespersons to the center of the room and then asking the whole group to listen to them as they answer is not really an effective strategy. Better would be to talk privately to the Spokespersons and share a correct answer and let them take that back to their groups. Or I should just announce the correct answer and not try to do a hybrid direct-instruction, group-collaborative intervention in the class.
o in general my ability to control and guide the students from a classroom management point of view needs some work. At various times I am talking over the students which is not effective and/or not waiting long enough for complete silence or attention before giving instruction, need to work on that.

Did Learning Take Place?

I would not have necessarily predicted that some of the best students could also be confused by the “amount of discount” versus “actual sale price (including discount)”. I think the lesson was a good step towards correcting that conceptual error which could easily trip them up on a standardized test if they don’t read the problems carefully enough.

One student was convinced that an answer was correct because they had pushed some series of buttons on their calculator and came up with a number. I tried to walk them and the entire group through the steps on the calculator and compare them to the “math sentences” that were on the worksheet. I also tried to walk them through some simple examples verbally that they could check against their calculator usage. That seemed to have some effect. However, what did not work was a student claiming that they had the right answer via some other calculator button-pressings. Especially since that student then wanted to take credit for having the right answer first. An argument ensued, and I think I could have handled that a little better. Perhaps one approach might have been asking each student to detail exactly the buttons they were pressing and in which order. And then reminding the group that what mattered is the group having the same answer and agreeing on the answer, not who came up with it first.

I have to say that making sure that the whole group had the same answer on their sheets is a powerful driver of consensus and communication in the groups. This itself is an invaluable part of collaborative learning. While I have been fairly critical above, there were some instances in all groups where it seemed like the groups were really flowing well together (my biased observation). I think a future opportunity to do another lesson would provide some good experiences for both the students and myself. Thanks much to Mrs B. for letting me take over her class!

Internship Reflection Week of 2011-10-24 [09] (CSI, CJTC, POGIL)

Monday 10/24/2011

Here’s Monday’s schedule.  Had the third meeting of the second session of the “Science Behind CSI” elective that I am co-teaching.  Topic today was:  Fingerprints Part 2.  Interesting part was giving a pint of blood before my class!


What went well:  In today’s class I really tried to take it a little slower and savor all the comments and interactions that were going on in class—very do-able with only 8 students.  I also tried to keep my answers brief, and stick to the content.  Part of doing the latter is recognize when I am rambling (to related/interesting places, mind you) but straying from the original intent of the question.  If questioning is something I would like to gain real expertise at, then I need to keep track of the question asked, give an answer, follow up with the questioner to see if the real query was addressed, and then proceed to my tangential or related next question.  Another technique suggested by Dan D. but which I haven’t done yet, is to keep a sheet of paper on the wall, and capture the student-generated questions which I don’t want to treat, but want to acknowledge and honor.  These middle-schoolers have such fertile imaginations.  Our dusting for fingerprints activity went well this day (video to post to Vimeo later this week).  One student broke a glass which I had brought from home but we were able to get at least 4 groups of 8 dusting, dusting, dusting with both white and black powders at our shared desks.  I have to say it is truly magical to take white dust, put it on a black surface and see the fingerprint pop out at you.  I hope it was for the students as well.

What could go better:  By the time one half of a whole table was covered with black dusting powder, I was struck by how much these students just want to experience these activities.  For me, sometimes when my hands/fingers are doing something I am able to listen or focus better.  Still, I think having a clear process they were to follow would have been a little more organized for all students.  Dan D. pointed out that latent finger prints are actually made up a mix of oils, salts, perspiration, etc. and I have to say I hadn’t done my homework on exactly what the composition of fingerprints really is.  The video will show a couple of really hand-waving-type comments at that point.  The other comment I needed to have some backup information for was which surfaces have yielded viable fingerprints, why and how exactly they are obtained from those surfaces.  I personally have yet to get a latent fingerprint from dusting that is recognized and processed by the fingerprint matching software. I think the ability to get a print with just the right amount of dusting powder (no large globs, that is) and then lift it without smearing or smudging is a true art.  Our attempt at cyanoacrylate fuming was thwarted as well by a dried out superglue tube.  I think I need to get hands on and do that myself as well.

As B Lippitt pointed out, it would be really valuable to go through a more formal lesson planning procedure with the CSI Elective.  I have been meaning to do that, but should start.  Also whereas my colleagues in the ARC have to do 3-4 sessions of the same class each day, I only get one shot, but then can repeat in 4 weeks again.  That time to reflect needs to be capitalized upon.

Tuesday 10/25/2011

I was really looking forward to our field trip to the Criminal Justice Training Center / Burien Law Enforcement Academy today.  We were able to gather 11 students for the walk (yes, we are located close enough to walk) to this field trip location.  We met our tour guides at 10am on the site, and proceeded to observe a class on police ethics, a demonstration of scenario-based education for the cadets, and a quick tour of the indoor shooting range, and a physical-education class.  Our students were inquisitive throughout and at the end of the tour had buttonholed the Commander of the facility on how they could get high-school internships at that site.  I was very proud of them!  As you can imagine the staff at the school are unaware of how our school works and I pointed out to a few of the students that they need to prepare a presentation on how the school works which they can give to prospective mentors.  This would make their ask more compelling and could be used by other folks at the school in their “marketing”.

In the afternoon I was helping student S. with a garbage survey.  As part of her senior project she is pushing to get our school more recycling aware and so we had planned to go through some garbage together today.  The plan is to evaluate how much recyclables are in the schools waste stream before S. implements a push to recycle and then how much recyclables are in the waste stream after the push to recycle.  As we dug into the dumpster, removed bags, opened them and categorized the contents as either garbage or recyclables, a reporter from the b-townblog was there to capture our work.  We would weigh the total bag, then separate the bag into two components (recyclables and non-recyclables) and then weigh those.  Two of us were able to process approximately 6 bags in 1 hour.  The STP (Senior Thesis Project) is a requirement for graduation from Big Picture High School and is meant to demonstrate work toward solving a problem in the community.

Our staff meeting in the afternoon was focused around 3 activities.

1. Organize the weekly schedule for clubs that have been needing times to meet, but which are not meant to take away from instructional time.

2. Plan for how we will be doing school wide Exhibitions.  The Exhibition cycle is like final exams or tests for students, occurs three times a year, and results in narrative evaluations (grades) for all students.

3. Address other hot topics from our staff meeting which have been festering.

Wednesday 10/26/2011

Wednesday started with our followup PD (professional development) meeting from the day before.  Some topics that arose in the course of the free discussion were:

  • Transcripts, Assessments and Exhibitions
  • Advisor Effectiveness
  • Are we at Big Picture improving?
  • Leveling up and accountability



Thursday 10/27/2011

On this day I drove to Bellevue Christian to observe Mare Sullivan and her high school chemistry class that uses POGIL (Process-Oriented Guided-Inquiry Learning).  See my blog post about that experience.

Returning back to Big Picture at about 10:30a, I was asked to work with a couple of students (L. and D.) that are very interested in computer gaming.  I was also asked to work with a student, J., on his nuclear power project.  And then later that day I was supposed to get with C. who wanted to work on his computer proficiency.  That’s in a nutshell the essence of this job, helping students discover or develop interests that provide an entry to deeper engagement in STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math).

But, back to games for second.  Last week, Big Picture was granted access to software available from Microsoft via http://www.dreamspark.com.  Since there are development tools for games free for download at that site, my idea was to install those tools and use them to get students involved building the games that they love to play so much.  (Game playing on school computers and on school time is pretty common, sadly.)  My gambit is that students that really love games will want to build games that their friends will like or play, and that the design, building, troubleshooting, tweaking, and publishing of a game will make an excellent project for a student’s learning plan.  However, on this day I met some serious roadblocks trying to install this software on Windows XP computers that either aren’t supported or didn’t have the graphics cards to support the Kodu Game Lab or the XNA Game Studio 4.0.

Meanwhile, the student who wanted to read about nuclear power was deeply engrossed in a story which had pictures of the aftermath of the tsunami in northern Japan, and the impact that disaster had on the nuclear power plant there.  He was asking great questions, and not evidently having any trouble reading the article that I had asked him to read.  I am told that the trick is verifying comprehension of the article so I should read the article myself and ask him some questions from that to gauge his understanding.

The student who was scheduled for some computer literacy evidently developed a massive headache and needed to go home.  His teacher and the aide suspected that some stresses around other activities that day might have been contributing factors.

The end of the day on Thursday was the standing meeting of the Special Teams at the school.  Main topic of the meeting was discussion of the Fall Exhibition Cycle which will be taking place during the 2nd and 3rd weeks of November at the school.  Exhibitions are opportunities for students to demonstrate tangible progress toward the goals listed on their learning plans.  To see more about how exhibitions fit into the Big Picture educational model, see my blog post here.  I was a little apprehensive about exhibitions before this meeting, but during the course of the discussion, I was persuaded by the veterans in the room that it is a very healthy experience for all present, student, parents, advisors and other staff.  The student often rises to the occasion, and if not, even a lackluster exhibition can have a lasting impact on the student.

Friday 10/28/2011

A student, P., was working on the computer in my room this morning and we got to talking about various topics.  For some reason during the conversation I looked up the 2005 Commencement Speech that Steve Jobs gave at Stanford University, which ends with the admonition “Stay hungry, Stay foolish.”  As we viewed the YouTube story together, the student surprised me a little with her ignorance of who Steve Jobs was, what he had done at Apple, and how (recently) he had died.  Needless to say Steve’s words about hoping to live another decade or two (he was dead in 6 years), and, since the time is short, making sure that what you are doing you do because you really love it, are pretty powerful, especially for students in high school who are often asking themselves life-changing questions.

Dan D. was out this day, and so I taught the “Science Behind CSI” elective without direct supervision.  As usual, I taped the class so that we could review it later.  This time I also asked students to complete a “Clear & Unclear” exit activity.  Results were very interesting.  Since this class session involved about 3 clips, I was not surprised to see one student who didn’t get the reason for watching videos in class.  I did recall that in the last section of this class, the next time I showed so many videos in class they got very disinterested and started to disengage.  I’m still convinced that video is valuable and powerful as a teaching aide, I just don’t want to overdo it.  The other thing I learned from the “Clear & Unclear” exercise is that I need to allow more time for writing responses.  Students were very reluctant to sit down and right something, so soon before the end of class (and lunchtime that follows).  Many wrote merely some questions they had about something random in the last 10-15 minutes of class.


The rest of Friday

“Cooperative Learning” Due Nov 9

Assignment from Syllabus

Cooperative Learning (1 session)

You should observe one cooperative learning experience. This may or may not be in your endorsement area(s). Cooperative Learning for the purpose of this class requires students to work in groups of 3 to 5 where specific roles are assigned to each group member so that each individual is accountable to the group. Describe the purpose of the cooperative learning experience. How were groups assigned? What roles did each student perform? How well did the groups work together? Was the use of cooperative learning appropriate and effective for reaching the learning objectives? What was the product of the cooperative learning experience? How did the experience connect prior and future learning?

***Note: You may conduct the focused observation BEFORE the specified week. Cooperative Learning will likely be the most difficult observation for you to schedule because not many teachers structure group work as true cooperative learning where roles are assigned. Also, you may NOT conduct multiple focused observations during the same class period. The point of a focused observation is to focus on one aspect of the lesson only.

On 10/27/2011, I observed a high school chemistry class (90 min.) taught by Mare Sullivan at Bellevue Christian School.  This was the day after Mare led our EDU6171 class through a POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) exercise on the SPU campus.  Many thanks to Tim Krell and may Vaughn for bringing Mare to our class and to Mare for allowing me to observe on such short notice.  I was also able to briefly visit an algebra course also at BCS, and also using POGIL being taught by Rod Wishart, thanks also to Rod for letting me sit in for a while.

Purpose:  I don’t know the background on how POGIL came to be used so widely at Bellevue Christian, but I can imagine the purpose was and is to foster the engagement and learning of every student in the classroom.  Mrs. Sullivan’s courses all use cooperative learning (POGIL) all the time, and I think Mr. Wishart’s course uses POGIL most of the time.

Assignment of Groups and Roles:  I understood from Mrs. Sullivan that the groups are initially random at the beginning of the class, but then get shuffled based on performance from the last exam/test.  The distribution is made to make sure each group has a roughly equal composition of high, medium and low performers.  The class I observed had 6 groups of 4 students.  Each group had

  • a manager,
  • a technician
  • a document controller
  • a spokesperson
  • and a cheerleader.

NOTE: some groups had students fulfilling more than one role.

Group Productivity/Efficiency:  When I entered the classroom, I was introduced and asked to join a group which was short a person.  We immediately did a 4-question quiz with Mrs. S. displaying the questions one at a time via the document camera.  After we had finished the quiz we traded our quizzes within our group and graded them.  (I missed a question or two!)  Mrs. S. then took us through the handout for that day, which was covering the writing and balancing of chemical equations.  A few people in the group I was in didn’t take their own notes on what they were supposed to be covering that day.  I guess they were going to rely on the manager to lead them through.  When the student came who was normally part of the group I had initially joined, I was freed up to circulate among all the groups.

In my first group, and in a few subsequent groups, I asked a student or two what their role was in the group.  Their answers were not always immediate or unequivocal.  One answer I got was that the roles had just changed and thus any confusion was justified (?!)  If strong roles are key to good cooperative learning (POGIL) then I guess the teacher’s job becomes a scaffolding of each student in their particular role.

This idea was somewhat reinforced when I went to Mr. W.’s math class.  He also had his classroom arranged in six groups of four students each.  In this class the students had a green sheet which detailed the precise problems they were supposed to be working through together, and the order in which they were to be doing them.  Each group spokesperson would raise their hand to get Mr. W. to come and sign off on a stage on their green sheet before they could proceed.  (I noticed that to be somewhat of a procedural bottleneck, but not a major one in this class.)

I overhead Mr. W. explaining to one group’s manager that being a boss or a manager in the real world took some assertiveness and creative corralling of the group’s activities.  In another group as they were trying to sign off, Mr. W. did a spot check that each person in the group agreed on an answer to one of the questions.  When he probed and found that the documentation/answer wasn’t shared across the group, he questioned the document controller in the group.  When that student was claiming the group was “uncontrollable”, Mr. W. urged them to get back to basics and make sure that they all had the same answers and that they all agreed that their common answer was unanimous.  At one point I went off script and asked a group a question related to their understanding of the problem they were working on.  One student quickly gave the right answer, and another student readily agreed.  I caught myself, however, being satisfied with a lack of unanimity in the group and then asked the less vocal students if they agreed or disagreed with the statement, but I didn’t get very much than a half-hearted agreement.  My mistake had been approving of the answer before I had worked the whole group through a consensus-building exercise on my question.  (Drat!)

Back in the chemistry class I was able to sit with each group for about 4-5 minutes.  I noticed some groups that had very strong leaders, and some groups that seemed to be floundering for lack of leadership.  I saw groups with some very quiet members, that were also not making sure that they had the same answer as the others in their group.  I can see that POGIL enforces a type of accountability down to the individual in the classroom who is struggling or who isn’t investing into their own learning process or that of others.  I also saw that Mrs. S. circulated the room and was good about getting groups to assist their stragglers.  I also saw that a group with weak leadership too more of the teacher’s time, but that after a group understood an exercise, the teacher could send other groups that were similarly struggling to that group to get help.  This leveraging of understanding really freed up the teacher.

Were Groups Appropriate and Effective?

Overall I noticed that the groups were fairly even in their progress through the exercises for that day. Near the end of the period Mrs. S. distributed a subset of exercises to each group, and asked them to be prepared to present them via the document camera to the whole class as their last activity of the day.

I have an outstanding question (out to Mrs. S. in e-mail) on how the teacher determines what to do the next day given the day’s progress.  I am curious where the class starts on the next day, i.e. what does done look like?

What was the Product of the Group Work?

One product of the group work was a set of exercises that the spokesperson for the group could present via the document camera to the whole class.  I think we ran out of time for all groups to present their assigned exercises, but a few groups were able to present their findings and thus the rest of the class had some ability to verify their own work on the same problems.

The other product of the group work was a completed set of exercises that they had all worked through, and thus all had unanimous answers, i.e. similar rationales and understandings of their answers.

Did the Group Work Connect to Prior and Future Learning?

I assume this question is meant to gauge if the group work which I observed was “bolted onto” an existing lesson plan or unit plan, or if it was integrated well into the whole flow of the classroom, i.e. both lesson and unit plan.

Since Mrs. S.’s class is always doing POGIL, I am confident that the group work today will be built upon next week and that the group work today had built on group work that had transpired in previous weeks.

It is a little daunting that in our class at SPU, Mrs. S. mentioned that it took almost 20 preparation hours to generate one lesson plan hour.  However the payoff is certainly worthwhile if the students are able to connect prior learning seamlessly to future learning.

In particular in this class, the lesson mentioned the candle burning experiment which I realized was from Chapter 1 of the course.  Students were thus able to connect that given the observation of a physical reaction, with care that reaction can be represented as a chemical equation, and by measuring ingredients and products a balanced chemical equation can be written, thus observation can confirm/rejct hypothesis, a huge idea in all of science.

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