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Who's Who


Elizabeth G. Cohen

Professor Emerita of Education and Sociology   

Developer: Program for Complex Instruction      

"To meet the challenge of heterogeneous class-
rooms, it is necessary for students to use each
other as resources; tasks for small groups should
require multiple abilities; and teachers need to
know how to ensure that each student makes an
important intellectual contribution to the group."

How can schools teach at a uniformly high level when their students vary tremendously in terms of achievement, proficiency in the language of instruction, and social status? That increasingly relevant question is central to the research, teaching, and school-based programs organized by Dr. Elizabeth Cohen. Part of Dr. Cohen's solution for teaching to diverse classrooms is complex instruction, a novel approach that focuses on the development of higher order thinking skills and small group problem solving. This approach, which has now been disseminated to many different schools in North America (US, Canada), Europe (Belgium, Denmark, Sweden), and other nations around the globe (Israel, Jamaica), is proving to be particularly effective at promoting equal access to learning opportunities in heterogeneous classrooms.


BA, Clark University
MA, Harvard University
PhD in Sociology, Harvard University (1958).

Professional Experience:

Professor, Stanford University (1964 - 1999)
Instructor, Boston University (1957-1958).

Activities and Awards:

Director, Program for Complex Instruction; Principal Investigator, California International Studies Project; Board Member, International Association for the Study of Cooperation in Education. (Past roles: Chair, Social Sciences in Education, School of Education; Chair, University Committee on Research; Chair, Sociology of Education Section, American Sociological Association.)


Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms (1997)
Designing Groupwork Strategies for Heterogenous Classrooms (1994)
Status Treatments for the Classroom (videotape, 1994)
"Restructuring the Classroom: Conditions for Productive Small Groups" in Review of Educational Research (1994)
"Producing Equal Status Interaction in the Heterogeneous Classroom" in American Educational Research Journal (with R. Lotan, 1995)
many other articles, chapters, and manuals for teachers.

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Rachel Lotan

Developer: Program for Complex Instruction

Director: Stanford Teacher EducationProgram  

Associate Professor of Teaching  

As director of the Stanford Teacher Education Program, Rachel teaches both the secondary teaching seminar (Practicum) and "Teaching in Heterogeneous Classrooms." Before taking on the post directing the teacher education program, Rachel acted as Co-Director of the Program for Complex Instruction. Among her many other accomplishments, Rachel conceptualized the design of multiple-ability units and tasks for groupwork in heterogeneous classrooms and has worked with teams of curriculum developers and teachers to design such tasks in mathematics, social studies, language arts, human biology, and second/ foreign language. She also developed the feedback process based on systematic observations in classrooms of teachers implementing complex instruction.

Rachel's academic interests focus studying aspects of  teaching and learning in heterogeneous Classrooms, sociology of the classroom, the social organization of schools, and professional development of teachers.
At present, she is interested in studying the classrooms conditions under which English learners develop linguistic proficiency and master academic content and discourse in heterogeneous classrooms.


B.A. in English Linguistics and French Literature from Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Masters degree in Sociology and in Education (Concentration: Second/Foreign Language Teaching and Learning) from Stanford University.
Ph.D. in Education (Concentration: Social Sciences in Education) from Stanford University.

Professional Experience:

Post-doctoral fellow with the Center for Policy Research in Education, at the  Eagleton Institute of  Politics, Rutgers University.       
Co-Director: Program for Complex Instruction, Stanford University.


With Elizabeth G. Cohen: Working for Equity in Heterogeneous Classrooms: Sociological Theory in Action. (1997) Teachers College Press.
With Judy Shulman and Jennifer Whitcomb: Groupwork in diverse classrooms: A casebook for educators.(1998)  published by Teachers College Press.

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Beth A. Scarloss
Complex Instruction "Web Mistress"


BA University of California at Berkeley
MA Sociology, Stanford University
PhD of Education (Sociology of Education), Stanford University

Professional Experience:

Post-doctoral scholar with the California International Studies Project, Stanford University
Doctoral work with the Program for Complex Instruction


Cohen, Elizabeth G., Rachel A. Lotan, Percy Abram, Beth A. Scarloss, and Susan E. Schultz. 'Can Groups Learn?' Teachers College Record Volume 104, No. 6, September.

Abram, Percy, Beth A. Scarloss, Nicole Holthuis, Elizabeth Cohen, Rachel Lotan, and Susan Schultz. 'The Use of Evaluation Criteria to Improve Academic Discussions in Cooperative Groups.' Asia Pacific Journal of Education, Volume 22, No. 1.

Cohen, Elizabeth G., Rachel A. Lotan, Beth A. Scarloss, and Adele R. Arellano. 'Complex Instruction: Equity in Cooperative Learning Classrooms.' Theory Into Practice, Volume XXXVIII, Number 2, Spring.