Exploring Inquiry Learning:
An EngageCSEdu Author
and a User Discuss POGIL
by Clifton Kussmaul, Muhlenberg College,
Bo Brinkman, Miami University and
Beth A. Quinn, University of Colorado-Boulder - NCWIT
When structured well, collabora- tive learning can build computer science (CS) knowledge while
growing a more inclusive student commu-
nity [ 1, 2]. In this issue, we explore a specific
kind of collaborative learning—POGIL—
Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning.
As the developers of POGIL in CS describe
it, in POGIL
POGIL can also help dispel the per-
sistent stereotype of the lone coder that
can turn off some students from computer
science. Instead, through POGIL, students
experience computer science as a collabo-
rative, active, problem-solving activity.
In this article, Clif Kussmaul, a contributor of several POGIL assignments
to the EngageCSEdu collection and a
lead researcher in POGIL in computer
science, and Bo Brinkman, a computer
science faculty member who is newly
implementing POGIL in his introductory
courses, share how they discovered the
technique and offer tips for effectively
using it in computer science classrooms.
The conversation is facilitated by Beth
Quinn, Director of NCWIT’s EngageCSEdu
project. The interview has been edited for
clarity and length.
How did you start using POGIL
in your classes?
Clif: I had a mentor years ago who was
doing POGIL before it was called POGIL.
He kept talking about how he didn’t
give lectures. I thought, “Yeah, okay, that
sounds kind of interesting,” but he was
a chemist. It wasn’t until 2009 at ASEE,
the American Society for Engineering
Education conference, that I attended a
workshop on POGIL. The “ah-ha moment”
for me was when I started writing questions about for loops and realized that
it might really help students understand
something that they struggled with every
semester. Later that year, I was on sabbatical in India and teaching a new course,
and thought this was my best chance to
try it. It worked remarkably well. I was
really surprised by how engaged the
students were and how much interaction
and discussion there was. I came back to
the US and wrote my first NSF grant to
develop POGIL in computer science.
At this point, I use POGIL in nearly all
my courses and especially in the introductory courses I teach regularly, since I’ve
had more time to develop and refine those
materials. In some courses, two days out
of three will be POGIL, and maybe one day
out of three in other courses. But it’s pretty
much always there.
Bo: I got interested in POGIL about four
years ago when I saw a talk at SIGCSE.
But I had never found the time to do it
until two years ago. I was asked to par-
ticipate in a faculty learning community
at my institution that was charged with
reforming the way we teach in STEM, and
specifically with exploring how we might
use active and inquiry-based learning.
There were a lot of naysayers, especially
of inquiry-based learning. People were
saying, “I tried this and there’s no evidence
that it works.” So, I was unclear whether
inquiry-based learning was a good idea.
What won me over was an unrelated work-
shop from Clif and his collaborators. They
conducted most of the workshop in POGIL,
and when I experienced learning in that
mode, I really saw its potential.
I started taking a couple of Clif’s
assignments—just once or twice across
the semester—and sticking them in to see
how the students reacted. The students
loved them! This semester is the first time
I’ve done one POGIL every week in my
Foundations of Computing course (a CS0
course). Recently, I had a student stop me
to say that she was learning a lot from the
labs and it was her favorite thing about the
course. This is a big class! The lecture is a
hundred students—which for me is big—so
to have a student bring that out is a good
sign. When I’ve done them in previous
semesters and asked students at the end
of the semester which lab sections were
the best ones, the POGIL sessions were
An Example POGIL
Assignment in EngageCSEdu
Beth: One of the POGIL assignments you
have in the EngageCSEdu collection, Clif, is
called, Searching in Hi-Lo [ 7]. Tell us about
how it works.
Clif: Yes, this is something I was doing
pre-POGIL. Then, I realized it would work
even better with POGIL. It’s an activity that
I typically do the first day of class of CS1.