Cooperative Learning: Kagan Structures for English Language Learners.

The teacher no longer is the “sage on the stage” but rather a model and facilitator of learning

Why use this method of teaching?
The 21st century learning skills* require students to build reading, writing, problem-solving and application competencies. The teacher is supposed to teach less content and more skills. Cooperative learning is the perfect teaching methodology to teach students strategies and skills. It also a great model to show students how to apply those skills to study content.

*The 21st century learning skills are often called the 4 C’s: critical thinking, creative thinking, communicating, and collaborating. These skills help students learn, and so they are vital to success in school and beyond.

If you teach your students skills, they will become proficient, adaptable and life-long learners. And this works for ALL SUBJECTS. No matter the content, students who are skilled learners can study any subject, at any time and at any place. Cooperative learning also fosters a student’s ability to work in a team and to regularly reflect on his/her learning.

The teacher* assigns students in groups with specific roles and jobs. After team members are organized into these small groups, usually of four people, and receive instruction from their teacher, students within the team cooperate with one another and work through the assignment until each team member successfully understands and completes it. Ultimately the shared goals are accomplished individually by each team member, and collectively by the group as a whole.
Teacher-selected groups have been proven time and again to be the best method of forming teams because it ensures a good mix and avoids friends from working together, which neglects to achieve the goal of improvement of social interactions among students who do not know each other as well.kaganpresentation

Team members.

Team members are responsible for their own individual learning as well as for their teammates learning. Members benefit from the contributions of the individual team members. Groups are heterogeneous are made up of high, medium and low academic achieving students. Team members acquire new skills and knowledge. Rewards are oriented towards individual and group.
Classroom Management
If cooperative learning is not accompanied with an effective classroom management system, serious problems are likely to occur. (Spencer Kagan)

Teachers usually provide verbal information along with worksheets, outlines and study guides during a cooperative learning lesson.
Students who are unfamiliar with the cooperative learning model will need to be taught about the model and be clear on their roles as well as the teacher’s expectations during this type of lesson
Reflection (group processing) is an essential part of the cooperative learning process. By clarifying and describing which actions and decisions were helpful and unhelpful the group continues the learning process and improves each members effectiveness when contributing to a collaborative group.
The leading researchers of cooperative learning include Robert Slavin, Roger & David Johnson and Spencer Kagan, all of whom have slightly different approaches and emphases

The research of David and Roger Johnson, provides the foundation for how cooperative learning is structured in most of today’s classrooms. Their research shows that merely because students work in small groups does not mean they are cooperating to ensure their own learning and the learning of all others in the group.
Dr. Slavin suggests that cooperative learning is doubtlessly a great tool for handicapped and disabled students. Cooperative learning encourages these students and molds them to work in a professional environment. Cooperative learning of disabled and normal students is another great way of encourage disabled students. According to Slavin, when disabled and handicapped students work in mainstream and heterogeneous environments, they learn in a more productive and skillful manner.

Spencer Kagan has developed more than 100 structures to incorporate the basic principles of cooperative learning. “We are very clear with teachers that they should make cooperative learning part of any lesson,” Kagan says. “Ours is an integrated approach rather than a replacement approach.”

Kagan Structures
Kagan Structures are easy-to-learn and easy-to-use instructional strategies, ideal for promoting second language learning. In classrooms in which the Kagan Structures are used regularly, students for whom English is a second language learn both English and academic content far more quickly and far more thoroughly than when traditional instructional strategies are used. The Kagan Structures also promote language and content learning far more than does group work.

All of the Kagan Structures are very carefully designed. They are carefully structured to implement four basic principles of cooperative learning, PIESPIES

P  = Positive Interdependence
I  = Individual Accountability
E  = Equal Participation
S  = Simultaneous Interaction

For example, Kagan instructs teachers to use a “Timed Pair Share” structure. In this exercise, the teacher divides the class into pairs of students and poses a question. Within each pair, Student A talks about his or her answer for one minute, then Student B does the same.

The following examples illustrate a few of these instructional methods used:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

“Which Kagan Structures should I learn and use first?”, and “Where do I begin?”

Inside-Outside Circle: In concentric circles, students rotate to face new partners and then answer or discuss teacher questions.
Rally Table: In pairs, students alternate generating written responses or solving problems.
One Stray: On each team, one teammate “strays” from his or her team to a new team to share information.
Rally Robin: In pairs, students alternate generating oral responses.
Rally Coach: Partners take turns, one solving a problem while the other coaches.
Showdown: One teammate reads a question or problem aloud. Students work independently to solve the problem, then show their answers when a teammate calls, “Showdown!” They then celebrate the correct answer or coach to get the correct answer (Kagan 1994).

For more details about Cooperative Learning

On Kagan Institutes, workshops and conferences go to and

The “Round robin” technique

What is cooperative learning? SlideShare

Cooperative Learning Lessons Starter Kit

The Essential 5: A Starting Point for Kagan Cooperative Learning


Kagan Structures for English Language Learners