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Articles by Dr. Spencer Kagan
The "E" of PIES
(Kagan Online Magazine, Summer 1999)
We are often asked how Kagan Cooperative Learning differs from other approaches. The two most important differences are our emphasis on simple strategies and our emphasis on PIES, the four basic principles of cooperative learning in the Kagan model.
Strategies, not Lessons. Whereas many other approaches emphasize cooperative learning lessons, we stress the importance of cooperative learning strategies. We do not advocate cooperative learning lessons, but rather making cooperative learning part of every lesson by using simple strategies, many of which take only a few minutes to implement.
We have been very busy developing strategies: Our latest count brought us to 111 defined strategies, most of which have a number of powerful variations. But the strategies are not an end in themselves. They are tools. Their worth is measured by the engagement and learning they produce.
And that is where PIES comes in.

Not all strategies are equally powerful in producing engagement and learning. Similar appearing strategies, upon analysis, may have very different outcomes. And if we are going to use strategies repeatedly with our students, to maximize our effectiveness we need to know the outcomes they are likely to produce.
The "E" of PIES: Equal Participation. In this article let's focus on but one of the four PIES principles: Equal Participation. Let's examine two similar appearing strategies and discover how they have quite different outcomes with regard to the equality of participation they produce.
Let's contrast Think Pair Share and Timed Pair Share. On the surface these two strategies appear interchangeable. Upon analysis, however, we discover one produces equal participation and the other seldom does.
In a Think Pair Share, the teacher first guides the students to think about a topic, saying something like, "What was your reaction to the poem I just read?" After allowing "Think Time," the teacher instructs students to pair up and discuss their thoughts. Finally, the teacher calls on students one at a time to share with the whole class what was discussed. The teacher may call on students either to share their own thoughts or those of their partner.
In a Timed Pair Share, the teacher first has students think about a topic. Then for a preannounced time (often a minute), one student in each pair shares his/her thoughts while the partner just listens. Finally, the students reverse roles so the listener becomes the speaker and the speaker the listener, for the same amount of predetermined time.
Whereas there is nothing in Think Pair Share to make verbalization time equal within the pairs or during the class sharing time, Time Pair Share is carefully designed to equalize participation. Upon observation in Think Pair Share we find some students always doing most or even all of the talking, and other students doing little or none. Those who most need to practice verbalization are those least likely to verbalize. This unequal participation is not possible with a Timed Pair Share because equal time is structured into the interaction. In fact, the Kagan approach to Cooperative Learning is called the structural approach; we structure for the outcomes we value.
In the Kagan approach, we say if any of the four PIES principles is left out, the interaction is group work, not cooperative learning. For us PIES are what defines cooperative learning. As teachers we want fairly equal participation among our students. But when we have our students do group work, we do not take responsibility for structuring for the equality. We hope it happens, but do not make it happen. I am fond of saying group work is wishful thinking.
In Kagan cooperative learning we structure for the outcomes we take to be most important.
The examples are easy to multiply. The group work teacher says, "In your teams, make a list." The cooperative learning teacher says, "In your teams RoundTable a list." In group work one student grabs the paper and pencil and makes the list. In RoundTable each student takes a turn.
Although it takes a bit more effort to learn and use true cooperative learning strategies, the payoff is tremendous. Students who otherwise would slip through the cracks, become engaged learners.
We emphasize the structures because we believe they are our best set of tools for producing the educational outcomes we value.