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Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture

Isabella Pescarmona, Faculty of Education, University of Turin, Italy


Complex Instruction (CI) is a comprehensive program of curriculum and instruction which meets many of the criteria of Intercultural Education by equalizing rates of participation through multiple ability tasks and status interventions. In 2004, the Intercultural Centre of Bologna (CD/Lei) in collaboration with the University of Turin started a teacher training course in order to implement and disseminated Complex Instruction in the Italian schools. During this project a smaller group of Primary School teachers decides to develop and experiment with original CI teaching units in their classrooms. I am developing a qualitative research project using ethnographic methodology (participant observation and interviews) in order to investigate and understand how this instructional innovation is proceeding and how it is being implemented by the Bologna teacher group. The paper aims at problematizing the introduction of an alternative approach in an Italian context by examining how teachers reach successfully (or not) the new educational goals coping with their school structural conditions (such as schedules, curriculum demands) as well as cultural factors (such as professional values). I will discuss how CI strategy is debated and interpreted by the teachers involved.


A question which has always arisen at the end of teacher training courses on Cooperative Learning is how to put into practice the new information just learnt at school. If the theoretical aspects have been understood and shared by the majority, it is not so clear what exactly will happen in their classrooms. How are the new ideas implemented at school? What does introducing a methodological innovation at school entail once the teacher training course is ended? This point calls for a further reflection. Most of the studies on Cooperative Learning are centred on the effects obtained in classes and on the students results, without shedding light on the way the teachers, after attending a Cooperative Learning course, think over the new ideas and strategies which they will experiment with their classrooms. What does it mean for teachers to innovate their way of teaching and of organizing learning activities? So rather than talking about whether this method always succeeds, I will critically investigate Complex Instruction (CI - the Cooperative Learning approach I follow)

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


as it relates to the professional context, by examining the role played by the school context and its actorsi. A good viewpoint to understand how teachers interpret and give meaning to the new educational ideas seems to me to be that of investigating the teacher team involved in the process of the design of original CI teaching units.

Complex Instruction: a strategy for heterogeneous classes

Complex Instruction is a comprehensive program of curriculum and instruction, developed by Elizabeth Cohen at Stanford University, to promote equity in heterogeneous classrooms. E. Cohen analysed the Cooperative Learning approach starting from a sociological point of view. Considering a classroom as a social system, she realized that this educational strategy poses an instructional dilemma: it can enable all students (American and immigrant or minority groups) to achieve positive learning outcomes, but it may also reinforce an educational and social problem. This happens when it creates situations in which students who are academically low achievers or who are socially isolated are excluded (or they exclude themselves) from the interactions within the group. She refers to this as a ,,status problemii. According to the status expectation theory, status characteristics become the basis for the teachers and the groups expectations of competence for its members. So with time these differential expectations can become self-fulfilling prophecies (Rosenthal, 1972). They produce inequality in classrooms. The gap in academic achievement widens unless teachers take deliberate steps to equalize rates of participation. CI allows educators to address these questions successfully by offering specific strategies to treat the status problem in classrooms: 1) delegating authority to the group in solving an open-ended task; 2) the multiple ability task, centred around a ,,big idea, a problem which to be solved requires students to use many different kinds of intelligences (Gardner, 1991; Sternberg, 1997). E. Cohen always reminds us "No one of us has all these abilities, but each one of us has at least one, which we will need today"; 3) assigning competences to low-status students (Cohen, 1994; Cohen & Lotan, 1997; Cohen, 2003). In this way, CI strategy explicitly aims at changing (or at least widening) the conception of what it means to be ,,smart and at creating a mixed set of expectations for each student (Cohen, 2003; Lotan, 2003, 2006). P. Batelaan recognizes the great potential of CI for Intercultural Education. It seems to fit in well with the main goals of Intercultural Education: enhancing differences as resources and promoting equity in order to do justice to diversity. CI values diversity as a resource in group interactions and recognizes that each student can bring different intellectual abilities and skills to the learning process and an original contribution to solve the task (Batelaan, 1998; Batelaan, 2000; Verlot & Pinxten, 2000). The notion of Intercultural Education as a dialogue among differences is expressed in the CI strategy as an interdependence of differences in knowledge, skills, intelligences, language in the group work process, where the ethnic background (the fact of belonging to a minority group) is only one of the differences experienced at school (Batelaan, 2000; Goodenough, 1976). Such treatments

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


contribute to changing the social system of the classroom and making it a more equitable place. The close relationship between Intercultural Education and Complex Instruction became the focal point of an European Socrates Project, the CLIP Projectiii (Batelaan, 1998) with the purpose of disseminating CI in 9 European countries (Italy included). Following on from these experiences, in 2004 the Intercultural Centre of Bologna (CD/Lei) in collaboration with the University of Turin (F. Gobbo, chair of Intercultural Education) supported a project "Cooperative Learning in multicultural classrooms" in order to implement CI in some Italian schools. It consisted in an intensive course and in an in-service teacher training course, followed in 2005 by the experimenting of original CI teaching units in five Primary Schools in Bologna and its Province (Augelli & Gobbo & Pescarmona & Traversi, 2005; Gobbo, 2007). The final reflections on the two projects have revealed the teachers' point of view ­ the Italian one. In both cases they were actively interested in learning the new approach, but they spent a lot of time discussing classroom problems and strategies and expressing their doubts about the workability of CI in their classes. It emerged that introducing CI without taking into account the teachers' specific problems and their view on education is in itself a problem. So it seems to be necessary to problematize the use of CI strategy in different school contexts.

Complex Instruction at school: research on a group of Italian teachers

Research participants and context

The Bologna teacher group was formed in September 2004, as a consequence of the abovementioned teacher training course and become permanent during the first experiment with the new teaching units in classrooms in 2005. Initially supported by the Intercultural Centre of Bologna (CD/Lei), which provided spaces and materials, the teacher group, after a gap of about one yeariv, set themselves up autonomously, by planning informal and voluntary meetings in order to carry on developing and experimenting with original CI teaching units and to exchange their experiences and reflections under my supervision. The group consists of 6 permanent teachers working in different Primary Schools in Bologna and its Province. Two of them teach the 2nd grade, one the 3rd grade, one the 4th and one the 5th gradev. Each of them teaches a different subject: Italian, Maths, Science, History, English as a second language or music. Meetings have taken place once or twice a month since October 2006 (for at least four hours each time) at one of the schools involved in the project or, alternatively, in the private houses of the teachers.

Research Method

Reflecting on these past experiences, I am developing an ethnographic research project in order to problematize the introduction of a Cooperative Learning innovation in one Italian

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


educational context, taking into consideration how such ideas and strategies are interpreted when they reach a new environment and what the role played by the teachers professional identity is. I am collecting and analyzing data using interviews with the teachers, with the aim of understanding their educational objectives and what motivates them to proceed with CI. I am also using participant observation during the meetings where I have been taking field notes and collecting material as the new CI teaching unit takes form over one year. I decided to use ethnographic methodology for its potential to inquire into the capacity of schools to understand diversity and promote innovation (Gobbo ed., 2003). It allows the researcher, by taking part in their shared culture, to observe and focus on the participants points of view on the educational reality they are working in and to understand the meaning they attribute to CI and, in general, to their daily professional experiences.

A CI teaching unit: "Sapore è Sapere?"

"Sapore è Sapere?", a pun in Italian to express the concept "Tasting is Learning?", is the name and the main issue of the CI teaching unit designed in the school year 2006-2007. This idea leads to the examination the role which is played by food in the development of human civilization and how the availability of food ­ especially in the example of the potato ­ has influenced it. Centred around this main question, the interdisciplinary teaching unit is developed in five different activities on: (1) man and plants: from agriculture to OGM; (2) the "migration" of the potato and social implications; (2) food for thoughtvi: the use of food in literature (similes, proverbs, metaphors and fairy tales and songs); (3) food for thought. The use of food in figurative art; (3) what we eat and drink everyday: correct nutrition. The CI unit deals with issues of History, Geography, Italian, Science and Art by requiring the use of multiple abilities and arranging open-ended group tasks. The teachers have designed two different versions, one for the younger children (1st and 2nd grades) and one for the older (3rd, 4th and 5th grades) according to the pupils competences and relating to the Italian curriculum. The Bologna teachers have planned to try out the CI unit in their own classes, rotating the different activities in each group, from Spring 2007 to Winter 2007. The experiment is ongoing.

Experimenting with CI units: the teachers' perspectives

In this article I would like to focus my attention on the professional context with the specific purpose of presenting some initial reflections on how this instructional innovation is being implemented by the Bologna teacher group. Following through participant observation the teacher group involved in the creation and discussion of the teaching unit "Sapore è Sapere?" gives me an opportunity to investigate what it means for teachers to innovate their way of teaching. The aim of my research in fact is not just to evaluate the degree of

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


acquisition and success of CI, but "to film" a professional context while it is being transformed, or better, while it tries to transform itself. During the meetings, the Bologna teachers become aware of and discuss crucial educational points such as how pupils learn, what and how to evaluate, how to teach; questions each teacher has to cope with by comparing the new educational goals with their own professional beliefs and values. Observing the group of teachers working is a fruitful way to investigate the difficulties and resistances to the new strategy as well as the openings and the elements which accord with their professional path. I will make some initial comments on how teachers ,,position themselves (Jeffrey, 2003) regarding two specific aspects of a CI teaching unit: the delegation of authority and the multiple ability task.

Teachers and delegation of authority

Delegation of authority means sharing with the student the power to make decisions about how to accomplish the task, how to work together productively, how to evaluate and enhance the quality of the group product and how to recognize the contributions of individual members of the group (Lotan, 2006: 11). In agreement with CI strategy, autonomy is one of the main goals pursued by the Bologna teachers: they state they would like to promote childrens ability to make their own decisions and choices. Silviavii (2nd class) "... [the educational objective] to me is problem-solving. Pupils must be able to understand and solve a problem. Hypothesize ..." (I 11: 22 ri 47) Elena (5th class)"the main concept [of the unit] must come from pupils. You can assess them later" (I 5: 12 ri 14) They aim at achieving this, as they usually do, by proceeding through an inductive method and by emphasizing the process of discovering information. Valeria (4th class) "Teachers must start from [pupils] experience and then get to the concept" (I 3: 8 ri 6) So, the design of CI units reflects this progressive style: they dont want to make the Big Idea (the main question of the unit) explicitly, but they expect pupils to deduce it by trying out the different activities and they try to divide the task into small steps to encourage their pupils to discuss and solve the problem - aspects are not mentioned by E. Cohen. Teachers insist on going over again and again all the linguistic logical steps and the language of the instruction of the activity [food for thought]. They want to be sure of not giving useless and ineffective information to solve the task "What do we need for what?" (I 7: 23 ri 34). But at the same time they express their worries about the ability of their pupils to work on their own. The doubt is whether the deeper sense of the activity is understood or whether they are disoriented.

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


Silvia "I thought it [CI] would be a mess! On the contrary it was a manageable situation. They did everything on their own, took their stuff, decided ... I just walked around to see what they were doing ..." (I 10: 28 ri 40) . Elena "...but adult mediation is a really important point to relate [contents and group members] in fruitfully" (I 11: 23 ri 28) The teachers are accustomed to assign tasks, dispense instruction, monitor students activities, help them anytime they are in trouble and expect a (correct) answer to the question. They want students to become independent learners, but they think pupils need their supportive direction and supervision. They want students to reach the solution reasoning and discussing in face-to-face social interactions or in groups ones on a classroom task, but under the constant guide of the teacher and in a few progressive steps or lessons managed by the teacher. The difficulty in delegating authority is reflected in the creation of a teaching unit in two main ways. The first is the tendency to give pupils detailed instructions. This is another (indirect) way of supervising students work in order to prevent mistakes and minimize wasting valuable instructional time. They discuss a lot how many and which kind of directions ("commands") are to be included in the task to allow students not to fail or to ,,discover what the teacher has planned for them to discover. So they tend to simplify the content and process of learning. Valeria ed Elena are explaining the activity about nutrition they are working on: it starts with some preliminary questions, to which pupils should answer by observing the table on the next page, with this information they have to fill in the nutritional pyramid, and complete a comic strip to test their comprehension. Finally they will compose a song to promote a healthy diet [...]. Valeria "Perhaps it will take them less than one hour. Its not so hard". [...] Elena replies "Lets put essential information in so that its easy to understand" (I 8: 25 ri 22) Serena (2nd class) retorts straight away "If the path is led by you, its ok, but on their own ... it should be an easier task. If you lead it, you can make it more difficult". (I 3:8 ri 4) On the other hand, they are aware that this could remove much of the task uncertainty and that assigning a group e cooperative task means that the teacher is ready to accept unexpected solutions and answers. So sometimes they state resolutely: Silvia explains " We must give up thinking they will do what we have planned in detail. We can think of everything and imagine their answers but they will give us different ones" (I 7: 23 ri 12) Secondly, the emphasis is put on pre-requisites. For the Bologna teachers pupils learn step by step, through progressive ,,bricks which build up the knowledge of a particular topic. Silvia "Pupils shouldnt learn the whole concept in only one activity!" (I 3:6 ri 11) Valeria remarks "Learning is systematic work: recalling past concepts and revising them. [...] Theres constant revision. It changes according to the psychological development" (I 12: On ri 24).

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


For them, if this process is missing, students could fail in the task or just memorize definitions without significant understanding. Serena has doubts going back to the subject of simplification " It [the main unit theme] should have being explained a bit before [they do it by themselves]. If not, what do they get?" (I 4: 11 ri 4) This aspect is strictly related to the curriculum. The Bologna teachers stress the importance of introducing CI in continuity with the annual programviii which each teacher has implemented and they are often worried about the effective possibility of doing it. A very habitual exchange about this is: Serena said [...] "Are you already there?", Valeria replies "Have you dropped behind? ... me too" (I 2:3 ri 17) And another point: [Relating to the activity on the ,,migration of the potato] Valeria " you realize we have stopped at Roman history? What kind of idea could pupils have about the second half of the twentieth century?" [...] Maria "We have to teach just Italy...the world map is hardly touched!" and Valeria adds "I point to the map hanging in my classroom, just to talk a bit more about the world, but no more ... I do it. But I dont know whether my colleagues do ...". (I 8: 24 ri 36) It also reveals part of the cultural and organizational framework in which they normally work. The interdisciplinary topic of the CI unit requires an agreement with colleagues of different subjects and has to adapt itself to what has been planned for that class. CI to be effective has to be consistent with the rhythm and contents of the classroom. But sometimes, despite it, they recognize in CI a way to withstand this pressure and follow their ideas and educational purposes. [Referring to the OGM activity] "We should talk about DNA, but its not [in the syllabus]" complains Maria. Silvia states they could give pupils very easy information about it "Its a topic they have heard people talking about" and Valeria "Its useful to know about it if you are alive now". (I 3: 5 ri 43) Learning to delegate authority takes time and is particularly challenging for these teachers. Faced with CI strategy, they problematize the perception of their role as mediators in the process of learning and the ways they use to delegate authority. CI requires teachers, firstly, to create and present the task and the group work, and then, to give each group the power to appraise and to decide how to graduate the task: the process of learning is mediated by the students. And it proceeds by rotating simultaneously the different activities of the unit in each group. Students are supposed to extend the knowledge of a particular topic by exploring on their own the main question from different points of view. This demand on the students goes half-way to meeting the way these teachers habitually manage the process of learning. In their view, the process of learning seems to start from a direct experience or question posed by the teacher, who leads pupils through gradual steps to discuss, discover and conclude. The new content is repeated over time in different ways and becomes progressively more difficult.

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


From my observations it seems that each teacher in the Bologna group grapples with the CI procedure in his/her own way and tries to find strategiesix which are consistent with his/her professional experience and values.

Teachers and multiple ability task

The notion of multiple ability is central to make effective the group task, which requires a broader range of intellectual abilities, and crucial for successful status treatments. It sets the stage for evaluating the teachers and the students expectations for competences and their view of what is ,,smart in an equitable classroom (Cohen & Lotan, 2006: 746). So teachers are urged to adapt, adjust and modify not only their instructional practices, but their approach to the curriculum, too. The idea of multiple abilities is not new for Bologna teachers. They state that it is a part of their professional background. Silvia remembers the seventies "The first stage of the reform on full-timex was reflected in the school language itself: we used to talk about non-verbal communication, dramatization, expressivity, music [...] In the full time classrooms you included all kinds of children" (I 11: 21 ri 45) Today the curriculum suggestions of the past have entered the varied curriculum of Italian Primary school. Bologna teachers seem to be confident with multiple intelligences because musical, kinaesthetic and visual skills are included in the annual planning process. These skills are recognized, but they are often considered additional to the linguistic and logicalmathematical ones. They are implemented at a specific time in a rigid timetable, often by temporary teachers or by one of the teachers of the class for a few hours. So they are kept apart from the main subjects and receive a separate and different evaluation. Despite this, during the design of the CI unit the Bologna teachers came up with so many creative activities and suggested the use of so many different materials and tools that it was really difficult to choose interesting ones. They enrich the discussion by bringing in and making use of pictures, books, songs and poems and by illustrating some of their past experiences. Silvia asks me "Have you ever been to our classes during the English lessons? Everybody acts in the last step. Its a method...singing, performing ... in English". (I 11: 22 ri 9) For them using a multiple ability task is a way to attract students to the task and to stimulate pupils interests, as progressive educational indications require. It is a way of not boring pupils and of developing different kinds of competences both for low- and highstatus students, and only secondly for encouraging low-status students to participate. Maria states "You cant keep them on the same activity that their class friends have just been seen doing!" and Silvia confirms "They get bored. My pupils want a new stimulus every time!" (I 11: 24 ri 15) Even though enthusiastic, they express their doubts. Using multiple abilities is easier in the construction of the final activity of the task, when instructions require pupils to work out what they have just learnt, rather than in the first part of the task, when students approach a new concept.

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


Silvia "Well...they must give back the new knowledge to their classmates. Pupils hold information and have to give it .. so that you really will promote multiple abilities. But they have to read first, yes". (I 5: 13 ri 2) They appreciate the use of multiple intelligences, but in the end they agree with the predominance and the priority of developing the linguistic skill at school. On the one hand musical, kinaesthetic and visual skills can not easily become a different way of teaching and learning and of organizing contents in a non-habitual way. Pupils mainly learn by reading comprehension activity. On the other hand these teachers worry that given the pressure of "covering" an extensive syllabus, a further focus on developing multiple abilities and devoting time to extra activities is a luxury they can hardly afford. Maria "Nowadays multiple ability activities are a luxury among others activities " and adds "I think understanding a text is what school has to teach. Reading and writing" (I 11: 22 ri 45) Elena argues "The problem is that the Primary School curriculum has put a stop to some subjects. They are no longer mentioned in the syllabus" (I 11: 22 ri 17) The Italian curriculum is very detailed with regard to the contents of the various subject matters and the learning of them across the school years. In spite of the fact that the curriculumxi is formulated as suggestions, teachers view it as compulsory, perceiving it as some sort of constraint. So they are often afraid of taking time away from the annual curriculum plan. They debate this: Valeria confirms "The longer I teach, the less homework I give. Im becoming less anxious about times and performance". Maria "Yes, few things but well done! .. but I get anxious thinking about when children will go to the Secondary School ..." and Elena completes "...or about the colleagues who race through things like madmen" (I 11: 22 ri 49) And, at the same time, in relation to it, these teachers complain of the lack of textbooks suitable and qualified for a new educational process. [Referring to the birth of agricolture] "Ive read things which I didnt know or hadnt met before, Ive never studied things in this way" states Silvia arguing how some text books [require]"you need to pick and choose activities in the books to make the process of learning more suitable] (I 2: 3 ri 1) By reflecting on all this, it seems that in the Italian curriculum, as it appears today, and in the usual perception teachers have of their professionalism, there is a tendency to homogenize the levels and standards required for all students. Having contents, norms and standards to reach and through them to assess pupils a priori, gives a picture of an imaginary ,,average student rather than heterogeneous classrooms. Each student as well as each teacher has to adapt the educational objectives to it. A pre-determined path might classify and pigeonhole students and teachers ideas and potentials and make planning for heterogeneity a priori ­ as in the CI unit - hard. Innovating teaching means coping with this assumption and redefining the teachers own way of teaching and considering education by taking on board a wider notion of intellectual competence.

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


Some reflections: the professional identity between change and resistance

Observing the ,,backstage of a process of construction of a new teaching unit and the subsequent discussion is giving me the opportunity to problematize what is going on behind an educational innovation. Cooperative Learning is not merely a technique, a set of tools and rules; it leads to the thorough rethinking of ones whole way of considering teaching and learning. The process of adopting it in ones habitual instructional approach requires time and effort as the teachers themselves state in their words: "Its tough. You need to have a degree of motivation which not everybody has!" Elena (I 7: 24 ri 13) Maria "Can one work on it alone? It takes time and hard work and then..." (I T: 8 ri 31) Acknowledging these aspects calls into question the effective educational fall-out of teacher training courses at school, the real feasibility of proceeding with classroom experiments (if and how). CI group work entails a conceptual re-organization of the classroom, a development of the group task and a change in the teachers role. The question is how far it is possible to reconceptualize all this. What seems to be emerging from these first considerations is that the process of educational innovation entails the capacity of teachers to problematize and negotiate their professional identity. The Bologna teachers understand the deeper significance of CI (the aim of equity), but they do not want to give up their professionality, i.e. educational values and beliefs and what they have found to be good practice in their experience, for new ones. While they are working on a new unit, these teachers think over their usual way of teaching and organizing learning activities critically, revealing that the process of professional development is not linear and progressive, but is characterized by a tension, a negotiation between the will to renew their educational ideas and tools and the attempt to adapt CI (in this case) to their habitual teaching styles and organizational conditions experienced at school, the "culture of the school" (Florio-Ruane, 1996; Gobbo, 2000). They approach CI strategy as in a kind of ,,dance, at times embracing and at times keeping their distance from the new perspectives, in a constant ,,movement aimed at integrating these in personal and creative ways, a process of which they are aware. "I may take this method plus another one. I dont choose one in advance, but Im putting together different aspects" Maria (I In: 4 ri 13) Valeria laughing "We are not orthodox" (I 10: 29 ri 12). It seems that it is this constant search for balance that allows me, the researcher, to identify a pre-existent ,,culture of learning that teachers have, which we must take into account when we want to undertake a process of educational innovation. A teachers expresses it well:

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture


Maria asks "From whom do we draw our inspiration? It has been a great effort from the cultural point of view!" (I 4: 10 ri 8) The introduction of Cooperative Learning methodology cannot disregard the comparisons and debate which teachers are accustomed to. Borrowing new teaching ideas entails taking into account the educational cultural context and the different ways of considering teaching and learning (Phillips & Ochs, 2004; Gobbo, 2007) which organize the participation and practice at school. Elements of school culture, meaning attribution, the professional experience work as the forces of specification, variation and interpretation of models in education. In this perspective I would like to shed light on the work of this teacher group as a space of encounter and revision among different cultural perspectives, a space where different ideas on education converge and are discussed, characterized by openings, discrepancies and different meanings. So it seems impossible to determine beforehand the way in which a new educational methodology will be learned and implemented. It will always be the result of how teachers, who play an active role in this process, problematize it. Each teacher of the group working on CI, actively debates and interprets the strategy according to her educational values, personal beliefs, subject knowledge and past experience, each one designing a path, which does not completely overlap with the others, but meaningful for the context involved. This game of differences and similarities does not point to the unsuccessful acquisition of the new practice, but it reveals that an educational innovation is a dynamic designing process of something new. So the Bologna teacher group could be seen more properly as a space of revision and creation of original and previously unpredictable, unexpected educational answers, which do not leave things as they were.


AUGELLI, A. & GOBBO, F. & PESCARMONA, I. & TRAVERSI, M. (2005) Cooperative learning nelle classi multiculturali. Uno sguardo allistruzione complessa, Quaderni di formazione interculturale CD/Lei, Bologna. BATELAAN, P. (1998) Towards an equitable classroom. Final report of Cooperative Learning in Intercultural Education Project (CLIP), Hilversum, IAIE. BATELAAN, P. & GUNDARE, I. (2000) Intercultural Education, co-operative learning and the changing society, European Journal of Intercultural Studies, 11 supplement, 31-34. COHEN, E. (2003) Equità, scuola e istruzione complessa: i principi di base, in: F. GOBBO (ed) Multiculturalismo e Intercultura, Padova, Imprimitur, 153-178. COHEN, E. G. & LOTAN, R. A. (eds.) (1997), Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms. Sociological Theory in Practice, New York, Teachers College Press. COHEN, E. G. (1999; ed. or. 1994) Organizzare i gruppi cooperativi. Ruoli, funzioni, attività, Trento, Edizioni Erickson. COHEN, E. & LOTAN, R. (2006) Equity in heterogeneous classrooms, in: J. A. BANKS & C. A. M. BANKS (eds) Handbook of research on multicultural education, Jossey-Bass, Wiley Imprint FLORIO-RUANE, S. (1996) La cultura e lorganizzazione sociale della classe scolastica, in F. GOBBO (ed), Antropologia dellEducazione. Scuola, cultura, educazione nella società multiculturale, Milano, Edizioni Unicopli, 171-190

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GARDNER, H. (1991, or. 1983) Formae mentis. Saggio sulla pluralità dellintelligenza, Milano: Feltrinelli. GOBBO, F. (2007) Teaching Teachers Cooperative Learning: an intercultural challenge, in: G. BHATTI et all (eds) Social Justice and Intercultural Education: an open-ended dialogue, Trentham Books: London, 76-92 GOBBO, F. (ed) (2003) Etnografia delleducazione in Europa. Soggetti, contesti, questioni metodologiche, ed. Unicopli, Milano GOBBO, F. (2000) Pedagogia interculturale. Il progetto educativo nelle società complesse, Roma, Carocci GOODENOUGH, W. H.(1976) Multiculturalism as the Normal Human Experience, Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 7 (4), 4ss JEFFREY, B. (2003) Come "descrivere" i luoghi di ricerca etnografica, in: F. Gobbo (ed) Etnografia delleducazione in Europa. Soggetti, contesti, questioni metodologiche, ed. Unicopli, Milano, 139157 LOTAN, R. (2006) Managing groupwork in heterogeneous classrooms, in: C. Weinstein & C. Evertson (eds) Handbook of classroom management: research, practice and contemporary issues, Laurence Erlbaum Associates LOTAN, R. (2003) Group-worthy tasks, Educational Leadership, 6 (6), 72-75 PESCARMONA I., "Experimenting Cooperative learning in Italian Multicultural Classrooms: some reflections", paper presented at the Pre-Conference ECER 2007, University of Ghent, Belgium ­ EERA. PHILLIPS, D. & OCHS, K. (eds.) (2004) Educational Policy borrowing: historical perspectives, Oxford, Oxford Studies in Comparative Education, Symposium Books ROSENTHAL, R. & JACOBSON, L. (1972) Pigmalione in classe. Aspettative degli insegnanti e sviluppo intellettuale degli allievi, Franco Angeli editore, Milano. STERNBERG, R. J. & SPEAR-SWERLING, L. (1997) Le tre intelligenze: come potenziare le capacità analitiche, creative e pratiche, Trento, Erickson. TROMAN, J. (2003) Racconti dellinterfaccia: la pubblicizzazione della ricerca etnografica per la politica educativa, in: F.Gobbo F. (ed) Etnografia delleducazione in Europa. Soggetti, contesti, questioni metodologiche, ed. Unicopli, Milano, 107-137 VERLOT, M. & PINXTEN, R. (2000) Intercultural Education and Complex Instruction. Some remarks and questions from an anthropological perspective on learning, European Journal of Intercultural Studies, 11 supplement, 7-14



The topic of this article is a part of a wider ethnographic research project I have been developing since 2007 within the Doctorate course in Education at the University of Turin, Italy. ii "A status characteristic is an agreed-upon social ranking where everyone feels that it is better to have a high rank than a low rank". It is based upon general social distinctions (such as race and gender) or academic abilities (such as reading or calculating). (Cohen, 1997, ed. or. 1994). iii Acronym for Cooperative Learning on Intercultural Education Project, coordinated by IAIE and directed by P. Batelaan during 1997-1999. iv The gap corresponds to the second part of the school year 2005-2006. The teacher meetings took place again in October 2006. v Data refer to the school year 2006/2007. vi A quotation from Gianni Rodari "Cibo per la mente" in Rodari G., La grammatica della fantasia. Introduzione all'arte di inventare storie, Editori Riuniti, Roma, 1981. vii The teacher names are pseudonyms to protect the privacy of the research participants.

Complex Instruction: managing professional Development and School Culture



In Italy the school system is organized and managed by the Ministero della Pubblica Istruzione (Ministry of Education), which give all state schools contents, norms, financial resources and standards to reach. ix Strategies are defined as "those actions, or strategies, thanks to which some individual or group of people (in our case, teachers) effectively cope with positive aspects, or potentially negative, of a context" (Troman, 2003: 112). x The Reform on full-time took place in the seventies to cope with new Italian socio-cultural conditions and needs in the period of the "economic boom" and of internal migration. Full-time means that schoolchildren go to school not only in the morning (as was usual before), but also in the afternoon. Full-time school means for these teachers a "bottom-up fight" to reform the school system in a more inclusive way. xi At the moment of writing Italian schools are following the Indicazioni Nazionali per i Piani di Studio Personalizzati, 2002 (Moratti) or they are experimenting with the Nuove Indicazioni per il Curriculum D.M. del 31 luglio 2007 (Fioroni).

Notes on contributor

Isabella Pescarmona is a PhD student at the faculty of Education at the University of Turin, Italy. Her area of research is Cooperative Learning and Intercultural Education. Her research methodology is qualitatively profiled. She is a teacher in Secondary School and tutor for university students.

Email: [email protected]


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