Cooperative Learning

Why Cooperative Learning? Why Kagan?


I use direct instruction and it works very well. Why should I shift to cooperative learning?

There are many intelligent, well-organized, energetic, humorous teachers who can maintain active cognitive engagement for many students during lengthy direct instruction. They are so good at presenting that their students retain a very high proportion of the content and test well. Even if you are one of those teachers, we recommend you include cooperative learning structures. Why? As we indicated, students need to know how to cooperate if they are to thrive in the job world. Beyond that, there is a very rich, embedded curriculum students acquire when cooperative learning structures are used—a curriculum that cannot be acquired by exclusive use of direct instruction.

When students use Paraphrase Passport, they learn how to listen well and develop their empathy skills. When students do a Team Statement, they learn how to synthesize divergent ideas into a meaningful whole and how to resolve conflicts. When students do Logic Line-Ups, they engage and develop a specific thinking skill in the right hemisphere of their brains. When students do Kinesthetic Symbols, they engage the motor cortex and learn alternative ways to symbolize and remember the content. When students do a StandUp–HandUp–PairUp and then a Timed Pair Share, they learn to, literally, “think on their feet” and acquire diversity skills—listening with respect to different points of view. With each structure we use, new skills are acquired. Any one way to teach is good for some types of learning and not others. The more ways we teach, the more learning opportunities we afford our students.


Aren’t there different ways to do cooperative learning? What’s so special about Kagan Cooperative Learning?

There are many approaches to cooperative learning. See Chapter 17: Classic Cooperative Learning. What primarily distinguishes Kagan Cooperative Learning from the other approaches is the emphasis on simple structures that can be used as part of any lesson. As we have indicated, the other approaches to cooperative learning emphasize ways to design cooperative learning lessons. In the Kagan model we say, “Don’t do cooperative learning lessons; make cooperative learning part of every lesson.”

There are many advantages to this approach. Because the approach relies on simple structures, takes no special materials, no special preparation, and no change in lesson design or lesson content, cooperative learning becomes integrated into every lesson. This is quite in contrast to methods that would have teachers throw out their traditional lessons, design new cooperative learning lessons, and do those lessons on an occasional basis. With the Kagan approach, there is consistent, sustained implementation because teachers and students find the structures easy to use, fun, and successful. Because the Kagan approach is an integrated approach, the structures are used as part of every lesson so students are actively engaged much more of the time, multiplying the benefits of cooperative learning.