Students: Learn with a Guided Inquiry Approach

Elizabeth A. Johnson and Juhong Christie Liu

This open educational resources (OER) textbook was created with a learning method called guided inquiry learning. It was originated from Process-Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning (POGIL) from laboratory classes in chemistry and proven effective based student learning performance and feedback  (Farrell, Moog, & Spencer, 1999; Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okoroafor, Jordt, & Wenderoth, 2014; Vanags, Pammer, & Brinker, 2013).

In a POGIL class, students are provided with worksheets that contain the scenarios, models, key questions, and applications of the unit or class session as a guide for experiential (hands-on) learning in collaboration with their peers. A scenario is usually a succinct description of the main content of the unit and presents the unit learning objectives. Following the scenario, key questions with models explaining the core concepts, theories, or principles are presented by a teacher’s short expository lectures, images, videos, and demonstrations. During a face-to-face class session, short interactive time blocks are interwoven between the teacher’s 15-20 minutes exposition talks and student group work to figure out answers to the key questions and to present the group responses. These short teacher-led and student-led blocks within a class session usually conclude with a discussion of the application of the learned concepts or theories and leads to the next class session.

Since this OER is in a digital and online format, it contains scenarios, models, and key questions. Most of the models reflect how a concept is explained in a face-to-face classroom or lab, as verbally explained by the instructor while operating a microscope or analyzing a rock sample. The content are made as videos clips, images, or animations. Some are also interactive so that you can have a game-like experience when learning the content!

What is not included in this textbook, though, is the interactions with your peers in a real geoscience laboratory. Therefore, to make the most of this textbook and to successfully contribute to in-class activities, we recommend with the following tips:


  • Use your time on the online OER book efficiently and effectively before a class session. This is very important because you will equip yourself with the necessary content and the confidence of being prepared for the actual in-class operation and analysis with the lab equipment. There are a few tips that can help your efficiency here:
    • Set a 30-minute time block focusing on studying the OER module content while closing all social media or other irrelevant views of your computer or phone apps and use an alarm to remind yourself.
    • Take detailed notes, especially when you have questions. (Tip: taking notes will not only help you study for tests, but will also track your learning progress through the semester.)
    • Reward yourself by taking a short break between every 30 minutes.

Note: After a few weeks, you may find out that you may be able to extend those 30 minutes and that you have accomplished more within a short amount of time.


  • Develop informed inquiries with the preparation from studying this OER and additional resources. Within this online textbook, there is a collection of Student Resources to help you with additional information and materials.  Going beyond the minimum requirements to investigate topics in depth is a research skill that will serve you well in most future geoscience careers or graduate school.


  • Be observant during a class session. In a POGIL class, the instructor may start a session with the assumption that students have learned the basics from the interactive OER textbook and may let students work as small groups. Being a good observer will help you capture what you might have missed, and will help you answer those questions you had when learning the online OER content alone. Your observations can also help you be a good team player when setting up or using equipment, making interpretations of samples, or recording data correctly.


  • Take responsibility when working with a small group. Each member of the group has her/his own strengths and areas that need to complement from their peers. Whether or not you are assigned a role in the group work, learning from each other and making your group work successfully will always make you feel accomplished!

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Students: Learn with a Guided Inquiry Approach Copyright © by Elizabeth A. Johnson and Juhong Christie Liu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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