Mentoring beginning teachers in implementing process-oriented guided inquiry learning: An example of an inquiry-based pedagogical approach of teaching science


As a mentor, you are vital to the success of beginning teachers. You introduce them to new pedagogical strategies for creating stimulating, pupil-centred classrooms and, for this reason, you should remain current in the latest trends in science pedagogy. Increasingly, science educators have employed pupil-centred, collaborative learning approaches to foster significant learning (Eberlein, Kampmeier, Minderhout, Moog, Platt, Varma-Nelson and White, 2008). In this chapter, we describe how to mentor beginning teachers using one such approach: process-oriented guided inguiry learning (POGIL). POGIL works by developing pupils' subject knowledge and process skills through structured small-group learning and has proven effective at boosting achievement in diverse school contexts (Qureshi, Bradley, Vishnumolakala, Treagust, Southam, Mocerino and Ojei, 2016). Mentoring beginning teachers to use the POGIL approach involves eguipping them with teaching and learning strategies for enhancing pupil interaction and critical thinking in the science classroom (Moog, 2014).

This chapter provides an overview of POGIL, situates it within a spectrum of inquiry-based science pedagogies and offers a sequence of tasks for mentoring beginning science teachers in using the POGIL approach.


By the end of this chapter you should be able to:

  • • Understand POGIL as an effective inquiry-based pedagogical approach
  • • Support a beginning teacher to understand the benefits of inquiry-based science teaching and evaluate pupil activities at four increasingly complex levels of inquiry (confirmation, structured, guided and open)
  • • Support a beginning teacher to develop a POGIL plan, by incorporating three steps (exploration, invention and application) adopted from the POGIL learning cycle
  • • Encourage a beginning teacher to incorporate POGIL process skills in their lesson plans and suggest practical ways to implement inquiry questions and group work in classrooms
  • • Support a beginning teacher to plan and implement a series of POGIL lesson plans.

POGIL: An inquiry-based, experiential learning approach

POGIL is an inquiry-based, experiential learning approach that enables small groups of pupils to solve carefully designed activities that adhere to a well-formulated cycle of learning (Moog, 2014). Inquiry-based, pupil-centred learning approaches like POGIL are grounded in constructivist and progressive educational theories that emphasise conscious reflection on experience (Dewey, 1938; Piaget, 1973; Vygotsky, 1978; Kolb, 1984). For constructivists, learners 'construct their understanding of the world as a product of their actions in the world’ (Mascolo, 2009, p. 4). This point is crucial, as learning depends on active construction of understanding from concrete experience. As a mentor, you can support beginning teachers to adopt constructivist approaches by modelling inquiry-based teaching strategies in your classroom, which they can then adopt and/or adapt. Then, discuss your modelled teaching strategies to encourage them to plan, teach and reflect on their own practices grounded in inquiry-based pedagogical approaches.

Many beginning teachers value traditional teaching styles and associated teaching strategies, as they impart information quickly and efficiently. However, these classroom practices reduce interactions between teachers and pupils, and among pupils (Moog and Spencer, 2008). Inquiry-based approaches, including the POGIL approach, address the drawbacks of traditional teaching by discouraging passivity. By shifting emphasis from teacher presentation to pupil activity, beginning teachers can, with your support, recognise the importance of pupil-centred activities and become 'facilitators] of learning, asking probing questions to help guide the students to develop understanding, and addressing misconceptions and misunderstandings’ (Moog and Spencer, 2008, p. 2). Along these lines, Task 16.1 asks you to support a beginning teacher you are mentoring to self-reflect on their personal values and understanding of effective pedagogical approaches. They then discuss these reflections with you so you can suggest ways they can employ inquiry-oriented pupil-centred pedagogies in their practices.

Task 16.1 Self-reflection of inquiry-based and experiential science education

Ask a beginning teacher to;

1. Write a personal teaching philosophy

After the beginning teacher has written a teaching philosophy, you should read and discuss it. During your discussion, guide the beginning teacher to reflect critically on their assumptions and beliefs about what 'works' in science teaching

2. Discuss general views on effective inquiry-based pedagogical approaches

While discussing the beginning teacher's general positive and/or negative views on inquiry-based pedagogical approaches, ask them to elaborate on their motivation for becoming a science teacher and how this can support their pupils' learning

3. Discuss the theoretical relevance of teaching and learning science

In further discussion, elicit the benefits and drawbacks of different learning theories (such as behaviourist and constructivist approaches) to reflect on effective teaching and learning strategies. This discussion should extend from the suggestions above, based on the beginning teacher's teaching philosophy and views on inquiry-based pedagogical approaches.

The discussions/beginning teacher's self-reflections in Task 16.1, can be documented in Table 16.1. In this table, the left-hand column presents the three points from the discussion outlined in Task 16.1. The second and third columns record a beginning teacher’s selfreflections (strengths and limitations). These recorded strengths and limitations on the three discussion points presented in the first column of Table 16.1 can then be discussed with you. You could ask them 'why', 'why not', and 'how' questions, while they are discussing their strengths and limitations with you. The last column includes your suggestions for possible next steps to support the beginning teacher to adopt inquiry-oriented pupil-centred pedagogies. Revisit Table 16.1 by arranging at least three weekly meetings with the beginning teacher at different time intervals to support their self-reflection on philosophical orientation towards teaching and learning science (for example, at the beginning of their school placement/year, mid-placement/year and near the end of the school placement/year). In addition to these designated weekly meetings, ask the beginning teacher to update Table 16.1

Table 16.1 A beginning teacher's self-reflections on philosophical orientation towards teaching and learning science

Discussion points



Next steps

My personal teaching philosophy

My general views on effective inquiry-based pedagogical approaches

My understanding of the theoretical relevance of teaching and learning science

[In this table 'my' refers to the beginning teacher.]

Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning 247 every month and allow them to discuss their development and/or concerns with you at any point during the school placement/year.

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