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Research & Rationale

Mills Hill School—A Journey Towards Success

Impact of Cooperative Learning
Prior to the introduction of cooperative learning, behaviour had been a significant challenge. Within months, the positive impact of team-based learning, supported with classbuilding and teambuilding sessions, was having a significant impact in reducing the number of behaviour incidents across school.

The graph illustrates the downward trend in the number of behaviour incidents. Analysis of the behaviour incidents at the onset of the use of cooperative structures showed that while overall numbers decreased there were “new additions,” who previously had had low or no behaviour incidents, who began to have recorded incidents. A significant number of these new additions were learners who in group work could have been classified as “Hogs’” controlling and taking up the greater proportion of the talk time. Intensive teambuilding and classbuilding activities over a period of months saw these additions removed from the behaviour incidents with a further decrease in recorded incidents.

Observation grades on teaching and learning changed significantly over this period. Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted) is an inspection system within UK schools whereby inspectors grade lessons observed based on student behaviour, learner progress, inclusion and teaching approaches used and their impact on learners. The Ofsted inspection of Mills Hill in 2007 graded teaching and learning as outstanding.

 “Teachers are very confident in the way they approach the development of cooperative learning. It was a pleasure to see in one class both enthusiasm with which learners moved round to high five each other as part of their learning. It was just one piece of evidence of how well learners engage in learning.”
—Ofsted report 2007

Lesson Observation Grades 2003 to 2007
Behaviour Incidents 2003-2008

Lesson Observation Grades 2003 to 2007

At the introduction of Kagan Cooperative Learning, the changes in teaching moved lessons from Unsatisfactory and Satisfactory to Good. In subsequent years, there was a further shift from Satisfactory and Good to Very Good and Outstanding.

The improved quality of teaching and learning resulted in higher levels of attainment and achievements for all learners. Analysis of the proration of learners at and above national expectations for 7 to 11 year olds shows an increase for those above and a decrease for those below national expectations in attainment levels for combined English and Mathematics.

Levels of Attainment for All Learners aged 7 to 11 years for 2004–2008

During the period 2004 to 2008, Mills Hill School implemented the National Literacy and Numeracy lessons alongside the majority of UK primary schools. This included the curriculum entitlement and an exploration of teaching and learning approaches. It could be hypothesized that the national initiative could have been the lever for the changes in learner attainment. However, if this was true, we would expect other schools implementing the initiative to experience similar gains. This was clearly not the case:

“The national strategies have had an impact for learners but Kagan Structures for Engagement has been the significant lever of change for MillsHill. In 2004, our school was in the top 30% of school nationall.  Our rate of improvement has outpaced other schools—we are now in the top 6% of schools. I attribute this significant and rapid rate of progress to the high impact Kagan have had for our learners.
—Darran Lee, Headteacher Mills Hill

The Next Steps...
The learning never ends.

“I’ve always had a passion that every child should succeed and that there should be no glass ceilings. That is what drives me as a leader. For me, it’s achievement within a context of social learning—your gain is my gain. The child needs to develop both socially and academically. Cooperative learning has provided a process to achieve this goal.”
—Darran Lee, Headteacher Mills Hill

Staff professional development remains key in ensuring the ongoing successes; this is backed up with a rigorous monitoring system. In addition, the school looks to supporting the wider system in the development of cooperative learning, speaking at conferences and allowing opportunities for other professionals to observe the power of cooperative learning in action within a school setting.