Monday, August 2, 2010

A week of learning

I had the opportunity to attend a 5 day Kagan Cooperative Learning conference. I'll start by being very honest. I was really suspect. We've all been to those conferences that have been pretty drab. I wasn't exactly excited about spending 6 days away from my family either.

Wow was I wrong. This was a great learning time. My district had already had a Kagan trainer out to train some of the staff, so I was sent to learn the ins and outs of Kagan learning. I know that Kagan costs some money to get trained in, but wow what a great way to teach. I can see how I will use some of the structures in my professional development with staff.

I could write pages on what Kagan cooperative learning is, but I'll do some summarizing of key points. If you get a chance to check it out, please do. I highly recommend it!

As they say, Kagan is all about engagement. The trainer we had kept us very engaged in our learning. As he said, the typical classroom of 25 students during a questioning time has only 4% engagement. The student who answers the question... With Kagan structures, 25% of students are engaged, with up to 50%-100% depending on the structure.

Many people (including me before the training) see cooperative learning as dividing the students in the classroom into 3 or 4's. Then the teacher gives the students a task (worksheet or project) to complete. Well, what happens... the high achieving student complete the task and some students just sit and watch.
How is Kagan different??  That's the million dollar question...

The difference is the structures.. The different ways you assign a task to those teams (groups of 4). Instead of giving the groups a question to discuss, with Kagan structures each student is given a part of the task... Each member has a a responsibility to the group. One example is the Round Robin. This structure makes each student share something to the team. You can give each team member a time limit as well for their response.

Another difference is Kagan's focus on relationships. Much of our training time was spent getting to know the people in our groups of 4 (teams as Kagan calls them). This focus on relationships is what I see being useful in my work in professional development. There are many new faces in the building, so early I want to spend time having everyone getting to know each other. Building trusting relationships is going to be KEY!

I know this was a short snip-it of what I learned, I hope you can hear my passion for my learning. I've already planned how I'm going to use some of the structures in PD and want to see staff using the structures in their classroom. Half of the battle of learning is getting students engaged. I see Kagan as a great way to increase student engagement in the classroom.


  1. Thanks for this post Eric. We had a Kagan training at our school last year (one day) and I was entirely underwhelmed, but now I'll take a second look at the book. It's always nice to see things from a fresh set of eyes.

    There were a bunch of presentation aspects that I didn't like that probably colored my view, but my main problem I think was that Kagan seemed more like cooperative turn taking rather actual cooperative learning. That is, the "positive interdependence" stuff seems to be largely absent. Mostly it seemed like giving each kid 30 seconds to talk and rotating. Perhaps she just showed bad examples. Interested to hear what you plan to implement in your school.

  2. Jason, I don't want anyone to think that Kagan is the only way to go... I found it as a great way to increase student engagement. Part of that may have been the presenter we had. He kept us engaged...

    I do agree that turn taking is part of the picture, but it does provide more structure for groups than what I've seen or done in my classroom. In my experience, when having groups work together, there seems to be one person who takes over the group.. I think Kagan removes that issue..

    Thanks for commenting, I'll have another post about how I use it in PD...