Chestertown, MD, May 6, 2003 — The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $1.5 million to a team of chemists from Washington College, Franklin and Marshall College, Stony Brook University, Catholic University, and Sandia National Laboratories to introduce, promote, and disseminate nationwide an innovative method of teaching chemistry. Dr. Frank Creegan, W. Alton Jones Professor of Chemistry at Washington College, will serve as co-investigator in the four-year project. The method, “Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning” (POGIL), supplants the traditional lecture format with an environment in which students are actively engaged in mastering a discipline and in developing essential skills by working in self-managed teams on guided inquiry activities.
In recommending the award, the NSF review panel stated, “This project provides the very real possibility of jump-starting chemical education in the 21st century. ” Panelists went on to describe the project as, “a tremendous contribution to chemical education.”
“Washington College's chemistry faculty is student-oriented with an emphasis on undergraduate collaborative research,” said Dr. John S. Toll, President of Washington College, on learning of the award. “The POGIL methods for chemistry education that Dr. Creegan will investigate with his colleagues will not only offer us ways to expand chemistry education on our campus but will help improve science education across the nation.”
Grounded in current understanding of how students learn, POGIL focuses on developing important process skills in the areas of information processing, critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, communication, management, and assessment. Materials that facilitate the POGIL pedagogy have been developed, tested and are fully described at www.pogil.org.
The POGIL project would utilize a series of workshops, consultancies, on-site visits and video and web-based information to disseminate information about the POGIL approach for teaching undergraduate chemistry. Faculty will be provided with opportunities to participate in and develop effective student-centered learning approaches.
The goals of the project include the adoption of the POGIL approach by faculty at various institutions who will continue to innovate using student-centered teaching strategies; the creation of a network of experts to support this effort; the creation of a model for dissemination of innovative educational practices; and increased awareness of new learning and teaching practices.
Creegan holds a B. S. in chemistry from Merrimack College and a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from Fordham University. He is one of the charter members of MADCP, the Middle Atlantic Discovery Chemistry Project, and has developed numerous guided inquiry (discovery-based) experiments in organic chemistry, which now form the core of a yearlong course for science majors, as well as guided inquiry worksheets for a lectureless course in organic chemistry. Since 1993 he has presented in excess of two-dozen papers and posters at national and regional meetings on classroom and laboratory activities that use the POGIL approach to learning. In 1998-2001, with support from the NSF-funded New Traditions Project centered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the NSF-funded PSMETE fellowship program, Creegan helped mentor Dr. Andrei Straumanis in the development of set of POGIL worksheets that were converted into a book published in January 2003 by Houghton-Mifflin. Creegan is currently engaged in the development of a CD-based, modular laboratory manual for organic chemistry that follows the guided inquiry and learning cycle paradigms. The other co-investigators on the project are Rick Moog and James Spencer of Franklin and Marshall College, David Hanson of Stony Brook University, and Andrei Straumanis of Sandia National Laboratories. Diane Bunce of the Catholic University of America will conduct the project evaluation.
The NSF is an independent federal agency established by the National Science Foundation Act of 1950 to promote and advance scientific progress in the United States. Since its inception, the NSF has occupied a unique place among federal agencies, with responsibility for the overall health of science across all disciplines.