For the past year, several students in my graduate reading courses have shared activities that incorporate Kagan Structures -by Dr. Spencer Kagan. I have often wondered about the significance of these structures and how they may provide new insight to instructional practices in our school district.
As I dove further and further into research regarding this theoretical framework of active engagement - I was amazed at the depth of opportunities for student interaction: application of conceptual knowledge, active and constructive learning, experiential learning (Kolb), and collaboration... to name a few (2009). Here are some of the highlights from Dr. Kagan’s website:
What are Kagan Structures?
Structures are simple, step-by-step instructional strategies. Most Kagan Structures are designed to increase student engagement and cooperation. For example, a simple Kagan Structure is a RallyRobin. Rather than calling on one student at a time, the teacher has all students interacting at once by saying, “Turn to your partner and do a RallyRobin.” During a RallyRobin, students repeatedly take turns, giving one answer each turn to create an oral list. Each student in the class gives several answers. For longer responses, the teacher might use a different structure, a Timed Pair Share. In a Timed Pair Share, each student in turn shares for a predetermined time, perhaps only a minute each.
Over the years, we have developed over 200 structures. Some are designed to engage and develop specific types of thinking, others to engage and develop specific social skills, others to develop different intelligences, others to align instruction with principles derived from brain science, and yet others to foster mastery of different types of academic content. We have even developed discipline structures to guide teachers as they interact with disruptive students so they can create win-win discipline solutions!
How do the Kagan Structures address differentiation?
In many of the structures, we can differentiate the level, and even the type of learning so student pairs can work at the appropriate level of difficulty. For example, during RallyCoach each pair can be working on either different content or different levels of difficulty of the same content.
How do Kagan Structures align with multiple intelligences and brain science?
There are many structures. Some are designed to engage the different ways students are smart; some are actually designed to engage different parts of the brain. Active brain imaging demonstrates that the brains of students are more engaged when working with each other than when working alone. This partly explains the greater gains obtained when we use the interactive structures.
What are the basic principles of Kagan Cooperative Learning? Why do we need basic principles?
The basic principles of good cooperative learning are that:
1) The learning task promotes teamwork and students experience themselves as being on the same side;
2) Each student is held accountable for their individual contribution;
3) Students participate about equally; and
4) Many students are engaged at once.
These simple principles ensure students will cooperate, that each will make an independent contribution, and that all students participate about equally and participate a great deal. They are important because if we leave them out, students can hide — they can take a free ride allowing others to do the work. In the traditional classroom, participation is voluntary. Many students, for whatever reasons, simply do not participate. When the principles are in place, all students become intensely engaged.
Traditional Instructional Strategies vs. Kagan's Cooperative Structures
Let's compare a typical traditional English lesson to an English lesson using Kagan Structures. For example, we might want to teach direction vocabulary with prepositions of place and direction: next to, down, into, out, up, above, below.
In a traditional classroom, the teacher may provide some direct instruction, then do a whole class question-and-answer session. During the question-and-answer session, the teacher usually asks questions, then has students raise their hands to volunteer answers. Alternatively, the teacher may ask a question, and nominate a student to respond. Finally, the teacher may assign an activity for individual work and have the students independently practice the new skill. Sound familiar?
Cooperative Structures vs. Traditional
What is Kagan?
http://www.kaganonline.com/ (Watch quick video)
Differentiating with Kagan Strategies:
Creating a Caring Context - teambuilding
The Essential 5: A Starting Point for Kagan Cooperative Learning
Where to Begin
The Essential 2!
Teachers that use just RallyRobin and Timed Pair Share can make a huge difference in achievement and engagement and can take their students a very long way simply instead of "calling-on-one." Along with higher academic achievement you will also see a reduction of the gap between high and low achieving students, improved social skills and cooperativeness, improved self-esteem, increased liking for school and learning, improved classroom climate, decreased discipline problems, increased leadership and employability skills, improved conflict resolution skills and increased empathy and concern for others!
The Essential 5!
In pairs, students alternate generating brief oral responses.
• List adjectives to describe the character.
• List inert elements.
• Share steps of the experiment.
• Describe an event from the story.
In pairs, students share with a partner for a predetermined time while the partner listens. Then partners switch roles.
• What is the key thing that you learned?
• What is one literary technique you plan to use in your writing and how will you use it?
In teams, students take turns responding orally.
• What makes a good listener?
• List objects that float?
• What clubs or societies are you a member of?
• What is one of your favorite movies?
Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches. Then partners switch roles.
• Useful for any process or procedure with a definite right/wrong.
• Solve multi-step word problems in math.
• Change each decimal into a simplified fraction.
Students stand up, put their hand up and quickly find a partner with whom to share or discuss.
This structure is perfect for class-building, processing and reviewing information, energizing the class, forming random pairs or teams, lesson starts or wraps.
More References/Sources for Lists of Strategies:
Kagan, S. Kagan Structures: A Miracle of Active Engagement. San Clemente, CA: Kagan Publishing. Kagan Online Magazine, Fall/Winter 2009. www.KaganOnline.com
Kagan Structures are scientifically research based as well as backed by classroom evidence from districts, schools, and teachers experiencing success with Kagan. List of Articles:
Kaganonline - Research articles & rationale: http://www.kaganonline.com/free_articles/research_and_rationale/
20 pages of strategies and descriptions: http://www.psd150.org//cms/lib2/IL01001530/Centricity/Domain/23/DescriptionsOfStrategies.pdf
Quick Reference Guide of Kagan Structures: http://www.melodyshaw.com/files/Cooperative_Learning_Kagan_Quick_Reference_Guide.pdf
Laura Candler outlines several favorite Kagan Strategies: http://www.lauracandler.com/strategies/structures.php
The Brown-Bag Teacher: School district has adopted Kagan cooperative learning activities - this blog has pictures, examples and implementation hints; http://thebrownbagteacher.blogspot.com/2013/11/kagan-cooperative-learning.html
Gina Pepin, Ed.D.
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