Course Level
Knowledge Unit
Algorithms and Design
Collection Item Type

This POGIL activity is intended as an in-class activity for a CS 1 course (Java), potentially replacing a lecture, lab, or recitation section. The activity introduces students to recursion. It also introduces students to the POGIL roles and requires students to reflect on their collaboration. Students should be familiar with writing methods, making method calls, and writing if-statements and loops. Students should understand factorials and summations. (If not, additional math explanations should replace the summation sign.)


Students should be assigned in groups of 3-4 students (ideally four students). Each group should have access to two computers for Java programming.

While this written activity takes 85 minutes, it's important to allow time (an additional 15 minutes) for student groups to report out their answers and to facilitate discussion. If necessary, this activity can be covered over multiple class periods, but then the instructor should be sure to have students report out on each day's progress during the same class period.

Learning objectives for POGIL activities are divided into content learning objectives (CS concepts) and process learning objectives. After completing this activity, learners should be able to:

Content Learning Objectives

•   Identify the base case and the recursive call in a recursive method

•   Create a recursive method with a method call to itself

•   Recognize when to use recursion and when to use iteration

Process Learning Objectives

•   Predict the output of a recursive method as if it were executed by a computer. 

For more CS1 assignments from this author using POGIL, please see the link here:

Engagement Highlights

(Process Oriented Guided Inquiry Learning) is a research-based instructional strategy shown to increase pass rates and student retention of course content. Students are assigned roles (see role cards) that provide guidance on working together effectively. Instead of lecturing, instructors work as facilitators of learning, which encourages equity in the classroom. POGIL activities are completed during class (not as homework). They can replace a lecture, lab, or recitation class.

POGIL activities are designed to guide students through a Learning Cycle of Exploration, Concept Invention and Application. Students will explore information directly presented in the model, use this information to develop a new idea or better understanding of a concept, and finally apply this information in a new context.  

Engagement Practices Employed

Materials and Links

Computer Science Details

Computer Science Topic(s)
Programming Language

Material Format and Licensing Information

Material Format
Technology Platform Required
Not Specified/Unknown
Creative Commons License

Author's Institutional Information

Institution Type
Master's Colleges and Universities I
Community Type
City Midsize