Background of NSF POGIL project

In July 2011, 40 anatomy and physiology instructors met at Minneapolis Community and Technical College to learn about POGIL (Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning). POGIL is a teaching method that has been used in chemistry for over ten years and centers on small groups of students engaging in inquiry-based activities. During the Minneapolis workshop, participants first learned the basics of the POGIL method and then worked in teams to begin developing POGIL activities for anatomy and physiology.

The workshop was the first step in a two-year process to develop 10 to 20 activities specifically for use in introductory anatomy and physiology courses. Eight instructors from the original group were selected to engage in the curriculum revision process and will be meeting periodically over the next few months to revise existing modules and also develop new ones. After two years, the final products will be published by the POGIL main office at minimal costs to instructors. (See below for links to a sample activity.)

These POGIL activities will not replace textbooks or labs, but will provide instructors with an alternative to the traditional lecture approach. To use the activities effectively, instructors should first attend a POGIL workshop to learn the fundamentals of the approach; this is especially important for instructors who are new to group work or “inquiry” based lessons. We will be conducting a series of POGIL workshops and introducing sample POGIL modules at upcoming HAPS meetings in Jacksonville and Tulsa. Our goal is to launch all the curriculum modules at the Las Vegas national meeting in 2013 where several workshops will be offered on how to use the POGIL teaching approach in anatomy and physiology.

Funding for this project comes from the Minnesota State and University System (MnSCU) which provided funds and a location for our first workshop, and a grant from the National Science Foundation which is supporting the overall project (DUE-1044221). The POGIL approach promotes a classroom environment in which students ask and answer questions, work in groups, and engage in discussions. For instructors who enjoy interacting with students, it’s an ideal alternative to traditional lecture.

  • Introduction to POGIL (David M. Hanson, Stony Brook University and Richard S. Moog, Franklin and Marshall College)

Suggested References:

Brown, P. (2010). Process-oriented guided-inquiry learning in an introductory anatomy and physiology course with a diverse student population Advances in Physiology Education. 34(3): 150-155

Eberlein, T., J. Kampmeier, V. Minderhout, R.S. Moog, T. Platt, P. Varma-Nelson, and H.B. White. (2008). Pedagogies of engagement in science: A comparison of PBL, POGIL, and PLTL. Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education. 36: 262-273.

Workshop Participants - Minneapolis Community and Technical College - July 2011

Workshop Participants - Minneapolis Community and Technical College - July 2011

Minneapolis Workshop - January 2012

Minneapolis Workshop - January 2012

NSF Project Title:

Transforming Undergraduate Anatomy and Physiology Education through the Use of Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning

  • Grant Number: DUE-1044221
  • U OF M IRB Code Number: 1101S95097

To use Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) to promote change in the way anatomy and physiology is taught and learned.


This project aims to design and implement inquiry (i.e., POGIL) based lessons for entry-level anatomy and physiology courses.

Specific objectives for this two-year grant include:

  1. design a set of 10 to 20 inquiry based learning activities;
  2. conduct formative testing in 8 local colleges and modify the materials as needed;
  3. widely distribute the revised curriculum through the Human Anatomy and Physiology Society (HAPS);
  4. construct a robust web site that will provide support for both teachers and students and submit the final products (curriculum modules and web site) for approval by the POGIL office.