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Complex Instruction Assignment

(To Do Checklist)


The intent of this assignment is to teach you how to structure cooperative learning so everyone learns more - emphasis on everyone.  The purpose of this assignment is to have you successfully apply  Complex Instruction methodology and be able to explain the theoretical underpinnings of your application.  This will help you make strategic decisions about what to do with the content you need to teach and your own instructional moves once you learn about the status order of your classroom.

CI is an equity pedagogy.  It is a form of Cooperative Learning.  Remember, well executed collaboration has shown strong positive correlations with increased learning and achievement for groups of children traditionally considered to be low performers eg. girls in math/science; children with learning disabilities and other special education needs; and children whose cultural backgrounds put them at odds with the dominant rituals and practices of traditional schooling.

Bottom Line...
I am laying out this assignment in its most complete form.  I realize modifications may be necessary based on your setting and the age of your children.  Bottom line:
  • a) plan, teach, and assess and assess a rotation of at least three different multiple ability rich activities taught simultaneously;
  • b) assign competence in a way that advances the learning of learners who are commonly nonparticipators in group work;
  • c) document your assignment of competence;
  • c) collect pre/post data to show content based learning gains.
The CI Unit Assignment Rubric will be helpful to you in designing you unit.  You might want to check it out now.  Exceptional work might be a goal but an impossibility given your classroom and/or what the children in your school are accustomed to.  I understand that.  The goal here is to be clear in your narrative about what you were able to do as well as unable to do.  This will show you understand the theory and practice of CI.
1. Collect data in your classroom early in your internship that provides you with information related to how the children view each other with respect to academic strength and friendship patterns.  (Classroom Structures Assignment.)

2. Continue to build collaborative norms into your classroom rule structure as part of the climate building activity in your classroom (Cohen, C4.).   Post the norms you choose somewhere in your room so your chldren can see them.  Examples of collaborative norms include:

  • No one is a smart as all of us together.
  • You have the right to ask anyone in the group for help.
  • Your have the duty to assist anyone who asks for help.
  • Help other group members without doing their work for them.
  • Everyone cleans up.
  • Everyone helps.
3. Begin to prepare the children for cooperative work by teaching collaborative skills you deem important.  Read C5. in Cohen.  Play some simple games with the children where they learn cooperative behaviors.  Master Designer (Cohen, p. 168), Guess My Rule (Cohen, P. 170), and The Four Stage Rocket (Cohen, p. 178)  are effective examples of games that teach the skills of cooperation.  These could be played as part of a morning meeting.  Make sure the children learn the name of the collaborative skill you are trying to teach them .  Examples: 
  • explaining by telling how, 
  • everybody helps, 
  • discuss - decide - make a plan, 
  • show you are listening by repeating what someone has said,
  • making eye contact with the person speaking. 
Your teacher probably knows some role playing games that teach these kinds of social skills.  This is best done during the time you are talking about norms, probably the first six weeks of school.  The list of student behaviors on p. 46 is also helpful in this regard.

4. Gradually introduce the children to playing roles in a group (Cohen, C6).  It is a good idea to post the role descriptions somewhere in your room so children can refer back to them for clues about what to do. Roles might include:

  • materials manager,
  • facilitator,
  • recorder,
  • reporter,
  • harmonizer.

5. When you begin to design your interdisciplinary theme, design rich small group collaborative learning tasks around a big content idea.  Ideally, you should have as many rich multiple ability learning activities as there are groups of 4 in your classroom.  The criteria on p.68 are useful as you plan these activities.  Each activity should have an activity, resource, and individual report card.  Place two or three evaluative criteria on each activity card.  The evaluative criteria should be written to identify the content you wish the children to learn from doing the particular activity.  Evaluative criteria can be connected to the evidence portion of the Vermont Framework of Standards and Learning Opportunities.  Use the CI Unit taught by Suzanne McKegney as a good working model.  Suzanne's Rotation as well as additional examples of rotational learning activities are provided as supportive materials on this website.

6. Ideally, the learning activities should be taught in rotational format during the second week of your solo activity after you have introduced content related to your interdisciplinary unit.  In many cases, they may bridge into a third week.  Adjust this assignment to fit the capacity  of your class to undertake this kind of collaboration.  We will look at an video example of a CI rotation so you can have a clear picture of what this assignment might look like.  Keep in mind that each day of a rotation starts with an orientation and ends with a wrapup  (Cohen, C7). 

7. Assign competence at least three times during each day of the rotation.  Target children who are non-participators but include participators as well.  It would be great if your cooperating teacher could observe you do this an take note of your assigning competence.  Just to remember, the criteria for effective competence assignment (Cohen, p. 132) are:

  • name the child,
  • name the multiple ability they are demonstrating,
  • tie their ability to the group task and tell how it will make the attainment of the group goal more possible;  and if you are really good,
  • connect the ability with a life-long, valued occupation.

8.   Design a pre/post test on essential information you would like the children to learn as a result of this unit.  Based the assessment on your evaluative criteria.  Give the pretest before the rotation begins.  Give the posttest after the rotation is over.  Compute the average gain score for your class. 

9. Write an assessment narrative once the rotation is over. 

Please write this assignment as if you were writing a regular academic paper. Please do not consider each section a single paragraph. Overall, this paper asks you to report how you actualized the collaborative learning strategies that make up Complex Instruction, and to relate what happened for the children identified in your structures paper as a result of your considerable efforts. It would be good to review the rubric for this assignment to help guide your writing.

Section One: Introduction To The Paper

  • What is your purpose in this writing. What was your grade level and school and any special considerations in your instructional assignments? Explain what your interdisciplinary unit was and how (and if) Ci fit within it. Name your essential idea and big ideas (if appropriate), and give the title of your rotation. This section gives the reader the context for what is to come.

Section Two: Preparation 

  • How did you prepare the class for your collaborative work? Skillbuilders, when and how? Constraints... . How did you prepare your children/youth for using the norms of collaboration and groupwork roles. How seamless/disparate was this work from the regular routines of your classroom?

Section Three: CI Activities - Activity and Resource Cards

  •  Brief descriptions of your activities, including the multiple abilities that are central to the fun completion of what you have designed. How does each activity address your big ideas and/or the essential question for the rotation?

Section Four: How The Rotation Proceeded

  • How did it go. A brief color commentary of each day. Nothing huge, but give the reader a flavor for how it all came down. This is where you write about how you carried out the Multiple Ability Status Treatment. A list of the abilities that you use for initial examples and any additional abilities that got added to the list as the rotation proceeded would be useful here.

Section Five: Pre/Post Assessments

  • How did you carry out these assessments? Include a table of pre/post scores for each child. Indicate your "identified children." If possible, use the same table you did for the status order assessment with three additional columns: pre score, post score, gain. Any quirks in the assessment process should go here.

Section Six: Selected Student Behavior

Section Seven: Conclusion/Reflection

  • Your own personal reflection about what happened and what you learned as a result of what you did here: teaching the children to collaborate in a certain way so that they all might learn better and deeper. What would you have done differently? What did you do well? What was most meaningful to you as a result of this work?
    expectation states theory

    status order



    cooperative skills

    rich activities

    evaluative criteria

    multiple abilities

    assigning competence

    pre/post testing


    delegate authority

    no hovering


    Elementary Program Outcomes and Performance Criteria

    New Criteria (Fall 2003)

    • Pedagogical Expertise
      • 4, 5, 6a, 7, 9a, 9b
    • Positive Difference in Life of a Child
      • 11, 12, 13,
    • Teaching as Social Justice
      • 19, 20
    Old Criteria (Through Spring 2003)

    1. using prior knowledge
    2. intentional strategies
    4 dialogue and discourse
    6. cooperative grouping
    8. multiple assessment strategies
    9. wide range of learning styles
    10. safe and trusting learning community
    11. cultural competence

    State of Vermont

    Successful completion of this assignment will assure "meets standard" for at least one lesson for

    • 1 Teaching Episodes   A, B, C, E
    • 2 Understanding Student Learnng   E, G
    • 3 Accommodation Students   D
    • 4 Teaching Over Time  A, B