Getting Started

Quick Tips for Planning and Implementation

You, or your team, can get started with cooperative and collaborative learning with the help of the steps presented here. Also consult the Introduction and Models and Examples sections of this site. You may also want to read the comprehensive article "Encouraging the Use of Collaborative Learning in Higher Education" by Panitz and Panitz. In most cases, planning and implementation of Cooperative or Collaborative Learning involves only a single instructor but for larger courses a whole course team, a whole Department or a whole School may be involved. Whichever context you find yourself in, it is better to plan ahead.

If you would like some help from CEI in planning and implementing your teaching project, please contact

Step 1: Access Your Needs

You will have your reasons for wanting to implement CCL. Perhaps your students are learning the course content very well but have not developed the ability to work together as a cooperative team and to think creatively and critically within a cooperative team. Perhaps your local professional body is asking for graduates who can work in a team; building and maintaining cooperative relations with team members and managing conflicts.


Step 2: Choose Your CCL Course Model

The different CCL models now in common use are outlined in the Models and Examples on the sub-menu of this site. They can have very different implications for curriculum modification, assessment of students, student evaluation of teaching, availability of library resources, and even the kind of teaching space that you will require to implement CCL in a course. Of course other variations are possible: the models outlined are for reference and to help you get started.

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Step 3: Review Curriculum & Assessment

Regardless of which model you choose to adopt some review of the curriculum content will be necessary in order to incorporate the goals of developing students' learning skills in addition to their understanding of the course content. This will invariably require adjustments to the way in which you assess students as well. With a simple model using CCL as a supplementary tool in some tutorials, curriculum adjustments may be minimal. In the most comprehensive model of a whole program conversion to CCL, a total curriculum review is required.


Step 4: Review Your Instructional Strategies

Management of CCL activities and sessions places particular requirements on instructors and shifts their role from being primarily the provider of knowledge to facilitator of the students' own knowledge acquisition. In this case both students and teachers need to revise their expectations of each other and may need to acquire some additional skills for teaching and learning as well

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Step 5: Identify Where Different Types of CCL Groupings Can Be Used

The key to success in Cooperative or Collaborative Learning is having good problems for students to work with. Ideally they should reflect real world problem solving situations in a professional context and should lead students to find the appropriate course content for their solution and to develop the skills of reasoning about that content. A good starting point might be modification of the kinds of problems that you already use in your course. Alternatively there are now CCL courses in a wide range of disciplines worldwide and some of these document the problems that they use. The following site provides case studies for a number of disciplines:

Collaborative Learning [National Institute Science Foundation]


Step 6: Review Student Evaluation of Teaching

Take a careful look at the Student Evaluation of Teaching questionnaire that you are currently using. Does it reflect the style of teaching that you will be using in your CCL course? If not, it may need to be modified or extended.

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Step 7: Orientate Students

At the beginning of the semester when you plan to implement CCL, we recommend that you orient your students to the new course format in a number of ways. Firstly by stressing the benefits of CCL in terms of academic study and employability (see Ted Pantiz's comprehensive article listing 67 Benefits of CCL). CCL helps students develop a range of key skills and attributes that employers in Hong Kong, and internationally, are looking for in graduates such as communication skills, analytical reasoning, lateral thinking, interpersonal sensitivity, planning ability and leadership. Secondly, by walking them through the special learning activities that CCL will demand of them. Finally, they should also feel comfortable with any assessment requirements that may be placed on them that are different from their previous experience. For example, you may choose to assess class participation or group leadership skills. You may also want to read the excellent article "Cooperative Learning and College Teaching: Tips from the Trenches" by Jim Cooper (Teaching Professor, 1990, 4(5) ) which provides advice in the form of eleven key implementation points when starting CCL with your classes.

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