Models & Examples

Four Models and Examples of CCL Implementation and Student Support

This section contains key information to aid the CCL course design process. First, we present some Implementation Models for CCL courses. In these models, we provide examples from a range of institutions that employ these models. Second, we also suggest different Student Support Models that might be adopted by instructors/tutors/facilitators in order to accommodate classes of different sizes and levels of student maturity. The models are suggestive only and designed to show the degree of curriculum change, assessment change and change in instructional strategies that may be required for their implementation. We anticipate that this broad framework could inspire you to devise your own models and methods of implementation.

CCL Implementation Models





Informal Cooperative Groups

  • CCL used for short 15 minute intervals in a lecture.

  • Students work together in temporary, ad hoc groups that last for only one discussion or class period to achieve joint learning goals.

  • Informal cooperative learning groups are used to focus student attention on the material to be learned, create an expectation set and mood conducive to learning, ensure students cognitively process the material being taught, and provide closure to an instructional session.

  • HKUST's PRS is based on these short-term, informal cooperative groups where membership is random.



Formal Cooperative Groups

  • CCL used for longer term projects over a number of weeks.

  • Students work together for one or several class sessions to achieve shared learning goals and complete jointly specific tasks and assignments.

  • Formal cooperative learning groups provide the foundation for all other cooperative learning procedures. They are structured through pre-instructional decisions, setting the task and thecooperative structure, monitoring the groups while they work and intervening to improve taskwork and teamwork, and evaluating student learning and processing group functioning



Cooperative Base Groups

  • CCL groups used over a whole UG program.

  • Long-term groups (lasting for at least one semester or year) with stable membership whose primary responsibility is to give each member the support, encouragement, and assistance he or she needs to progress academically and develop cognitively and socially in healthy ways.



Collaborative Groups

  • CCL groups with a high degree of autonomy over learning content and process.

  • This is the same as Model 2 or 3 but here students are making quite a number of decisions about course content with broad parameters set by the instructor.


CCL Structuring Models





Learning together model

  • Students work in four- or five-member heterogeneous groups on a group assignment sheet.

  • A single product is turned in, and the group receives rewards together.

  • Emphasis on team-building activities and regular discussions within groups about how well they are working together.




Student team learning model

  • Emphasis on team goals and team success.

  • Teams earn rewards such as certificates if they achieve above a designated standard.

  • Students are rewarded for improving their performance, and team scores are important motivators.



Jigsaw model

  • Students work in assigned six-member teams on allocated academic material.

  • Each team member works on an assigned section, and then members from different teams who have worked on the same sections meet in "expert groups" to discuss their sections. Then students return to their own teams and take turns teaching their teammates about their section.

  • Jigsaw II is a modification designed at Johns Hopkins University in which all students read a common narrative but individuals meet and become "experts" on assigned topics. Primarily used in social studies and other subjects where learning from text is important.



Collaborative Inquiry model

  • In this general classroom organization plan, students form their own two- to six-member groups, choose subtopics from a classwide unit, and produce group reports.

  • Each group then makes a presentation or display to share its findings with the entire class.


Example for Informal Cooperative Groups

Engineering Physics, Missouri University of Science and Technology, USA

The Physics Learning Center, School of Physics

The Physics Learning Center (PLC) for Engineering Physics is designed to encourage students to take charge of their learning by working in informal cooperative groups. Informal cooperative groups are short term, and membership is random. They may be used for content review or processing of academic content. One approach the presenter uses is to request that students "turn to your neighbor" and discuss a particular element of the larger class discussion for a specified length of time, e.g. three minutes. She then listens and asks for feedback from the groups to pick up on misconceptions and unanswered questions. Another mechanism for informal groups is to use a clock and negotiate "appointments" for each hour in an initial class mixer. For informal tasks, then, the faculty member can ask everyone to quickly meet with their "9 o'clock" appointments. These kinds of groups are good for test review (give them a problem to solve), clarifying homework, or listing primary issues from readings. They may even be directed to exchange notes for a certain segment of class and discuss the content.

The PLC is staffed by experienced faculty and advanced peer instructors who act as guides rather than tutors when students initially ask for help. They employ Socratic methods, giving students hints as to how to proceed and drawing attention to errors in thinking. Instructors do not try to frustrate students needlessly, but do encourage them to take responsibility for developing their full career potentials.

The Physics Learning Center operates during afternoons and evenings on the days before recitation sections meet. Students voluntarily attend the PLC to improve their mastery of the course's material and to hone skills needed for success in their academic and in their professional careers. These include:

  • Clarity of physical insight, analysis and communication;
  • Expert methods of problem solving;
  • Insightful physical interpretations and analyses of numerical results;
  • Assured confidence through actual achievements;
  • Experience with spontaneous teamwork and leadership

Workshop Biology, Department of Biology, University of Oregon

Confronting Student Misconceptions in a Large Class - Dan Udovic, Director of Environmental Studies

"After reviewing the concepts in the beginning of the session students are asked to break into small groups (3-4 students/group) and a handout is distributed. The handout has a question about bat wing evolution and six possible responses - each displaying at least one misconception about natural selection. The six options that students are asked to evaluate are actually slightly edited student responses to the same question taken from old exams. The groups are asked to select the answer that they think is most correct and to identify specific problems with each of the other answers.

After the small-group discussions we come back together as a large group. I usually start by polling the groups to see which answer they felt was best. We then follow up by having different groups share the problems they identified with other answers. Because they have just worked as a group it is generally not difficult to get a discussion started."

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Example for Formal Cooperative Groups

Biology Core Curriculum, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA

Building on and Integrating Previous Knowledge - Ann Burgess, Program Director

"The class meets as a large group three times per week in a standard lecture hall and as smaller discussion sections once per week. To encourage everyone to study the assigned papers and necessary background materials ahead of time, we give a quiz each week in discussion sections. The first large group meeting each week consists of a lecture that introduces the topic and provides background material. The second is taken up by the core of the course, a team worksheet on that week's paper(s). The final meeting consists of a short teamwork evaluation period (teams discuss what went well that week and how they can improve next week) and a class discussion in which teams with different responses discuss their differences and the faculty leader addresses any misunderstandings brought out by the worksheet responses."

MathExcel, University of Kentucky, USA

MathExcel: Calculus Among Friends - Mike Freeman, Prof. of Mathematics & MathExcel Program Director

"The University of Kentucky Department of Mathematics teaches Calculus I, a large calculus class taught in the fall, in support of engineering, all the physical sciences, mathematics, secondary math education, and many biology majors and pre-meds. Calculus II is taught in the spring. Both classes are large lectures (300-500 students, with 15-25 sections). All Calculus students attend three one-hour lectures each week by a faculty member. The student audience in each lecture session consists of three sections: one MathExcel section and two regular sections. Then the "regular" students meet in their respective sections under the supervision of a graduate student teaching assistant for two recitation sessions each week. The course carries 4 units of credit.

MathExcel is a one-year program beginning in the fall of each academic year. The MathExcel students attend the same three Calculus I lectures each week, but they supplant the two recitations with what we call "Calculus Workshop," special MathExcel workshops that meet three times a week for two hours each."

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Example for Cooperative Base Groups

Project Management for Civil Engineers, University of Minnesota, USA

Project Management Courses - Karl Smith, Morse-Alumni Distinguished Professor of Civil Engineering

Karl Smith's personal home page contains links to his courses where you can see the implementation of cooperative base groups along with formal and informal cooperative groups. He has also pioneered the combining of CCL with Problem-Based Learning (PBL) and you can download papers from his website about this.

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Example for Collaborative Groups

Department of Education and Training Studies, University of New England, Australia

Collaborative Learning Groups in Distance Education - Dr Darryl Dymock and Mr Peter Hobson, University of New England

"Using audioconferencing, Collaborative Learning Groups (CLGs) were established among distance education students enrolled in three education units at the University of New England in 1996. The purpose of the CLGs was to help overcome the sense of isolation many distance education students feel, and to encourage students to take more responsibility for their own learning through discussion with other students without the presence of the lecturer. In second semester, voicemail was introduced to enhance the functioning of the CLGs. Generally, students who participated felt their learning was enhanced, but there was still quite a strong desire expressed for the lecturer to be part of the discussions".

Biology Education Review, University of Oregon, USA

Questions for Discussion, Investigation, and Reflection

At the heart of collaborative groups are good open-ended questions. Good questions which foster students integration, application, and reflection on the meaning of the knowledge they are learning. Students' responses to good questions help teachers determine what students understand, and where they are still confused.

There are links here to six articles from faculty teaching biology at various universities in the USA

"The essence of collaborative learning described by Kenneth Bruffee (1999) is a group of informed peers working together to construct a response to a meaningful question. So often we talk about the process skills that students can gain from inquiry-oriented activities-problem-solving, analytical skills, "learning to learn"-and forget that these can help students gain a sound understanding of fundamental concepts as well, understanding that will serve them well in future learning. The questions and questioning activities that are included in this issue are particularly focused on conceptual learning, and provide examples of how students can gain a conceptual foundation while also developing thinking and investigative skills. Asking good questions, also, models this process for students and helps them move toward asking their own good questions, and begin thinking like a scientist."

Bruffee, Kenneth A. (1999). Collaborative learning: higher education, interdependence, and the authority of knowledge. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

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Example for Learning Together Model

Department of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University, USA

Cooperative Learning in Technical Courses: procedures, pitfalls, and payoffs

Richard M. Felder, Department of Chemical Engineering, North Carolina State University, Rebecca Brent, School of Education, East Carolina University

Richard Felder, along with Karl Smith, is one of the leading proponents of collaborative in undergraduate engineering education. Based on a longitudinal study, this report offers some well researched ideas for using cooperative learning effectively in technical courses, giving advance warning of the problems that might arise when CCL is implemented, and providing assurances that the eventual benefits to both instructors and students amply justify the perseverance required to confront and overcome the problems.

Department of Computer Science, University of Virginia, USA

Cooperative Learning in an Undergraduate Computer Science Curriculum - Jane Chu Prey

This paper from the 1995 Frontiers in Education conference describes how one faculty has introduced cooperative learning for curriculum renewal in order to meet the needs of students in their future employment.

From the abstract:

"The University of Virginia began an ambitious undergraduate computer science curriculum revision in 1992. One of the cornerstones of our new curriculum is the use of cooperative learning. We use the cooperative learning model in closed laboratory activities developed for the first four core courses. This paper discusses how we have incorporated a cooperative learning environment into our new curriculum. An example of the cooperative learning activities from the CS1 course is given. (Others are available upon request.) We believe we have developed a cooperative learning environment which serves our students well as they continue their education here and in the working world."

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Example for Student Team Learning

Engineering - ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference,1998

Design and Development of a Peer Evaluation Instrument for "Student Learning Teams" Robert Martinazzi, University of Pittsburgh, USA

This conference paper (in pdf format) reports on the results for using peer evaluation with SLT. HKUST's Center for Enhanced Learning and Teaching has recently developed an online peer evaluation tool, OSSPE, to facilitate this process.

From the abstract: ""Student Learning Teams" (SLT) involves the integration of academic cooperative learning with an industrial based model used to develop corporate teams. Details for employing the SLT concept can be found in the second reference cited below.

Suffice it to say that for effective teamwork to occur within a "Student Learning Team", a variety of factors must be monitored and evaluated. One specific area "Interpersonal Relations", can potentially cause serious problems which stem from unclear and poorly defined expectations team members have of each other. Also, participation of all team members is paramount because it builds trust and demonstrates each member's sincerity and interest in being on the "Student Learning Team".

One suitable way to assess the "Interpersonal Relations" element within a team involves a peer evaluation. This paper discusses the design and development of a student centered peer evaluation for the SLT concept. It is based on input from several SLTs last year. Teams in the current semester are continuing the refinement of the instrument and will be using it as one factor in determining each team member's grade for the course. Currently data is being collected to substantiate the validity and reliability of the instrument and those results will be available in the future."

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Example for Jigsaw model

Faculty of Science, Your University, Canada

Jigsaw Cooperative Learning Strategy: Oil, Water and Chocolate Mousse example

This is an excellent step-by-step 'how to' on using the Jigsaw cooperative structure with science undergraduates.

Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology Program, University of Wisconsin, USA

Doing CL - Jigsaw

Part of the National Institute for Science Education (College Level 1) Collaborative Learning website, this page supplies clear descriptions of the stages of a Jigsaw activity.

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Example for Collaborative Inquiry

School of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore

Towards Exemplary Teaching Through Collaborative Inquiry Into Curriculum Redesign Chen Ai Yen with Agus Rahardja,Chan Chiu Ming, Lee Sing Kong, Liao Ziqi, Uma Ravinthran, Wan Yan Sum, Wong Chong Thim & Zhou Wei

This article describes the use of collaborative inquiry with student teachers but this is applicable to all advanced undergraduate classes as well as postgraduate ones.

From the abstract: "Teachers of professionals in Singapore universities and polytechnics are guided and stimulated to reflect on their own practices and social contexts independently and collectively with a view of working towards exemplary teaching in their own classes. They are participants in a formal education programme- the Postgraduate Diploma of Teaching in Higher Education programme which is organized by the National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University for new lecturers in tertiary institutions. This paper presents eight cases of reflective teaching based on a collaborative reflective inquiry framework which is made up of five R-stages of thinking : reflection, recognition, realization, response and resolution. Each case focuses on a faculty member and his/her concerns with the improvement of a particular aspect of teaching and/or student learning in diverse disciplines such as bioscience and nursing, business studies, computer and information sciences, engineering, medicine, and teacher education. The tertiary teachers report on the curricular changes made following reflections on their teaching problems, collaborative problem solving in class and attempts to engage the students in active learning."

School of Education and Social Policy, Northwestern University

Supporting Collaborative Guided Inquiry in a Learning Environment for Biology

Iris Tabak, William A. Sandoval, Brian K. Smith, Aggelici Agganis, Eric Baumgartner, and Brian J. Reiser

This is a paper on the use of computer-supported guided collaborative inquiry for Biology students. This virtual learning environment, called BGuILE, engages students in scientific investigations in which they can explore interesting problems in evolution and ecology. The environment supports productive inquiry by two interrelated means. First, the system structures students' investigations, encouraging them to compare competing hypotheses, articulate predictions, and record interpretations according to specific task models of biological inquiry. Second, the system provides a context for collaboration in which the biological task model is used to drive the content of students' discussions.

University of Minnesota, USA handouts.pdf

Inquiry-Based Collaborative Learning

This paper addresses the nature of inquiry in a collaborative context; models and emphasizes experiencing and designing inquiry-based collaborative learning experiences for students; and summarizes rationale for inquiry-basedcollaborative learning.

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