complex instruction unit



Note: I try to model complex instruction as I do each of these activities with prospective teachers. So I assign them roles, use participation quizzes, set up the tasks in groupworthy ways, etc. I’ve provided some details about these activities on this page. There is one major assignment for this unit. Suggested readings can be found at the end of each presentation.

Week 1: Introduction to Complex Instruction

Objectives: (1) introduce the theories of Complex Instruction (CI), generally and (2) explore the benefits and challenges of groupwork in the mathematics classroom.

Activity: In small groups, prospective mathematics teachers (PMTs) engage in an initial brainstorming session (objective 2) to create a list of the benefits and dilemmas that arise during groupwork in mathematics classrooms. PMTs briefly share their ideas before instructor introduces them to the benefits and dilemmas discussed in Designing Groupwork (Cohen, 1994). This introduction addresses the benefits of achieving intellectual and social goals, as well as solving some common classroom management dilemmas. When discussing the challenges that arise in groupwork, instructor emphasizes the role of status ordering, which is central to the theory of CI.

See slides on overview page for suggested readings.

Week 2: Delegating Authority I: Establishing norms for collaboration – skillbuilders

Objective: recognize the value of skillbuilders as a way of establishing norms for collaboration (one part of modifying traditional authority structure in classrooms)

Activity: Engage PMTs in a skillbuilder – either Broken Circles or Master Designer is recommended. Facilitate a discussion of this skillbuilder with the PMTs considering both the students’ and teacher’s perspective.

Optional activity:  PMTs explore CI theories for preparing students for cooperation by exploring skillbuilders through a jigsaw activity. Expert groups read and discussed the following pages of Designing Groupwork:

Responding to Needs of Group
p. 42-44
Teaching Cooperative Behaviors
Intro + Skills for high-level discourse
p. 44-48
Teaching Cooperative Behaviors
Intro +Use of social learning principles
p. 44-46; 48-50
Teaching Cooperative Behaviors
Intro +Training during group work
p. 44-46; 50-52
Special Norms for Group Behavior + Effective Group Functioning
p. 53-57
Cooperation and Anti-social Behavior + Norms as a practical tool
p. 57-61

In jigsaw groups, PMTs describe the readings and the importance of the ideas for preparing students for cooperation. Instructor might do this optional activity in Week 1, and ask PMTs to explore skillbuilders for homework & vote for one to do together in class.

See slides on delegating authority page for suggested readings.

Week 3: Delegating Authority II: Assigning group roles

Objective: assign group roles as a way of delegating authority (another part of modifying traditional authority structure in classrooms)

Activities: (1) Show “Group Roles” video. Assign different groups of PMTs a different question to focus on as they watch the video:

  1. Why do students need roles?
  2. What is the difference between “what” roles and “how” roles? Give an example of each type.
  3. What dangers of roles should you be aware of? How can they perpetuate status problems and unequal participation?
  4. What should you consider when deciding who to assign particular roles? What are some strategies for assigning roles?
  5. What are some strategies for preventing students from taking over other students’ roles?

Give PMTs 8-10 minutes to discuss each question with other PMTs who considered the same question. Then either have them share with the whole class or put them in jigsaw groups.

Recorder – Summarize the group’s decisions in a google doc. You should reference the parts of the video or the readings in your answer. You can share your own original ideas or questions, but make sure those are distinct from the ideas in the video/reading.

Facilitator – Your job is to make sure that all group members have a chance to contribute to the discussion and that all inputs are acknowledged and no one is ignored. It is also your responsibility to make sure that everyone understands what to do. You are the only one who can ask instructor questions – make sure they are group questions!

Reporter – Your job is to represent the group by sharing the main ideas related to your question. Your presentation should represent group ideas. Don’t just read the google doc word for word! Summarize the main ideas for us in 1-2 sentences, and tell us about any interesting debates/decisions the group had to make

Time manger – Your job is to help the group manage time and use time wisely. You’ll have 8 minutes to respond to the question. You’ll also manage the time for the group presentation. You’ll have 2 minutes to report to the class.

 

(2) Divide “how” roles among groups of PMTs. PMTs discuss their assigned role as a group, referencing the readings. They create a poster that they could display in a classroom that would summarize the assigned role, and they practice explaining the role to students. Once they have their poster, they share it with the whole class and rehearse their explanation of the role (i.e., explain it as if their peers were students). 

“How” roles:

  • A. Facilitator
  • B. Resource Monitor/Manager
  • C. Team Captain/Includer/Questioner
  • D. Timekeeper
  • E. Recorder/Reporter

Recorder – Your job is to record the group’s decisions about the role. You’ll be in charge of organizing and creating the poster based on group decisions!

Facilitator – Your job is to make sure that all group members have a chance to contribute to the discussion and that all inputs are acknowledged and no one is ignored. It is also your responsibility to make sure that everyone understands what to do. You are the only one who can ask Frances questions – make sure they are group questions!

Reporter – Your job is to role play the “teacher”. You’ll explain your assigned role to the class as if they were students. Don’t just read the poster!

Time manger – Your job is to help the group manage time and use time wisely. You’ll have 12 minutes to discuss your role and make your poster. You’ll also manage the time for the group presentation. You’ll have 1 minute to report to the class.

See slides on delegating authority page for suggested readings.

Week 4: Groupworthy Tasks I: Multiple Abilities

Objective: identify multiple abilities inherent in mathematics tasks

Activity: “Expense account” Task: Each person in the group gets 3 tokens. Each time someone speaks, they put a token in the center of the table. If you don’t have any tokens left, you can’t speak. If everyone runs out of tokens, retrieve them from the center of the table. Start the process over.

  • Share one thing from the reading that you found especially interesting, surprising or important.
  • What questions do you have about multiple abilities treatments

Resource manager – Help your group manage the tokens properly

Facilitator – Make sure everyone understands the questions, and encourage everyone to refer specifically to what you read

Recorder/reporter – Take some notes about the questions that people raise. You’ll share these with the class.

Time keeper – You’ll have 12 minutes for this activity

See slides on groupworthy tasks page for suggested readings and videos.

Introduce Major Assignment for this unit: Adapt a mathematical task to be groupworthy

Week 5: Treating Status Issues I: Assigning Competence

Objective: (1) identify how status issues influence access and participation; (2) recognize the importance of assigning competence

Activities: PMTs watch a video of students interacting in a group for evidence of who is participating and who has mathematical authority. The link and details about the video are listed in the Treating Status Issues presentation. In the past, when I’ve had PMTs watch the video, some have not noticed that there are 3 group members because they are so focused on the two girls. So we usually watch the video twice so that everyone notices the African American boy who is marginalized in the group. (Objective 1)

PMTs discuss what assigning competence means, why it is important, and some ways that they might do it, based on readings (see Treating Status Issues presentation). Instructor and/or PMTs connect multiple abilities treatment to planning for assigning competence.

Week 6: Groupworthy Tasks II: Adapting Tasks

Objective: (1) adapt tasks to be groupworthy

Activity: PMTs work on major assignment with feedback from instructor.

Week 7: Treating Status Issues II: ‘Classroom Management’ the Complex Instruction Way

Objective: Establish classroom routines in order to proactively encourage equitable participation and access

Activity: Divide class into three groups. Each group reads about a different complex instruction strategy (1- Classroom routines in Horn (2012); 2 – Huddles and 3 – Participation Quizzes in Featherstone et al. (2011). See Treating Status Issues slides for reading details). After reading individually, each group should be able to answer WHAT their strategy is; WHY a teacher might use the strategy; and HOW to use the strategy. Groups share out as a whole class or in jigsaw groups.

If PMTs read the Case of Robert (See Treating Status Issues slides for reading details), facilitate a whole class discussion:

  • What did you take away from the case study about listening to Robert?
  • What is this a case of?
  • What strengths did Robert bring to the classroom?
  • What role did assigning competence & status play?
  • What do you think the author meant by the statement, “I have concluded that the child considered most irretrievable by others’ standards might well shine when talking about and doing science” (p. 65) ? What does this mean for math?

This discussion highlights how one successful session does not change longstanding status issues. Use this to introduce the idea of needing other ways to give low status students access to mathematics (like participation quizzes, huddles, etc.).

Week 8: Finalizing groupworthy task adaption

NOTE: For a 6-week version of this unit, combine weeks 1 and 2, and assign the completion of the groupworthy task adaptation for homework (i.e., cut week 8).