Kagan's Articles - FREE Kagan Articles

Research & Rationale

Cooperative Learning Structures Improve Performance and Attitudes of High School Journalism Students

Bret Howard


The purpose of this study is to determine the effect(s) of using cooperative learning strategies on Performance Assessments and Attitudes of Journalism 1 students. The sixth hour Journalism class of 16 students participated in a three-week unit on “Students’ Legal Rights and Responsibilities”. The two cooperative learning strategies used were: 1) “Quiz-Quiz-Trade” and 2) “Timed Pair Share”. A pre-test and post-test was given at the beginning and end of the unit as well as comparing the Journalism classes Performance Assessment scores to the previous 2 classes taking this unit. An attitudinal survey was also given at the beginning of the study and at the end to determine attitudes toward Student Legal Rights and Responsibilities and Cooperative Learning Strategies. The results of this study indicated that using these two cooperative learning strategies had a positive impact on performance assessment scores and attitudes.


I have often found myself disappointed in Journalism class because students view me as the “final authority”. Through lecture the students are told ‘what’ is important, but do not seem to want to know ‘why’ it is important. I teach a unit of “Student rights and responsibilities” that is very important to the publications department at Remington High School.

“The purpose of this study was to see how cooperative learning structures impact assessments and attitudes of high school (9-12) Journalism students.”

When putting students in groups to discuss important items, one or two students seem to monopolize the discussion. To help correct this practice, and to improve assessment scores, I decided to implement two cooperative learning strategies. Remington High School has gone through two all-day professional staff developments from a Kagan Cooperative Learning national trainer. Instead of just lecturing and handing out worksheets that few students complete on their own, I decided to have my students try some cooperative learning structures. Can using cooperative learning structures increase students’ ability to learn material? The purpose of this study was to see how cooperative learning structures impact assessments and attitudes of high school (9-12) Journalism students. The two cooperative structures used in this study were: 1) Quiz-Quiz-Trade and 2) Timed-Pair-Share.

Plan of Action

The class that participated in this study was the Journalism class at Remington High School. The class consisted of one freshman, five sophomores, six juniors and four seniors (6 males and 10 females). Journalism is an elective course and is a pre-requisite for Newspaper and Yearbook.

The following materials were used in this study:

  • Each student was given a handout covering Libel and Invasion of Privacy, and Copyright and Trademark Issues.
  • Each student was given access to the Internet during class time.
  • Each student was given a rubric describing in detail the requirements for the final Performance Assessment.

At the beginning of the unit I gave a pre-test and administered a survey that asked questions about cooperative learning and publication law. The pre-test was given before assigning any reading or activity dealing with student first amendment rights and responsibilities. The first thing I did was to break students up into heterogeneous teams of four in terms of achievement. When you create heterogeneous teams by achievement, you get better ranges of improvement than by creating teams randomly (Kagan, 1). After the students had completed their first reading assignment I explained and demonstrated the two Kagan cooperative learning structures that I used in this study. The structures were Quiz-Quiz-Trade and Timed Pair Share.

Timed Pair Share
Timed-Pair-Share is a five-step process.

Step 1. Teacher announces a topic and states how long each student will have to share that information with their partner.
Step 2. The teacher will provide think time (wait time).
Step 3. In pairs, Partner A will share; Partner B will listen.
Step 4. Partner B will then respond to Partner A.
Step 5. Partners switch roles.

One option to this structure is for the teacher to provide response gambits before Step 4. Examples would be: 1) Thanks for sharing, 2) One thing I learned listening to you was . . . and 3) I enjoyed listening to you because . . .

Quiz-Quiz-Trade is a seven-step process. You must first have note cards that have questions on one side and answers on the other side. Give each student one of these cards.

Step 1. Have students stand-up, put their hands-up and then pair-up with someone else who has their hand up.
Step 2. Partner A quizzes.
Step 3. Partner B answers.
Step 4. Partner A coaches or praises.
Step 5. Switch roles.
Steps 6. Partners trades cards and raise their hands to find new partners.
Step 7. Repeat steps 1-6 a number of times.

Remington High School is on a modified A-B Block schedule. The Journalism class met 8 times during this unit. The class was exposed to Quiz-Quiz-Trade and Timed Pair Share once every time they met.

At the conclusion of the unit I gave a post-test, administered the survey once again and then administered a performance assessment on a separate day. After the unit was completed, I compared the scores on the pre-test and post-test as well as comparing the performance assessment against the scores from the previous two Journalism classes that had taken the same performance assessment. I chose to use the previous two classes because the 2004 data only included six students.



The results of this study showed a definite increase in improvement both on the pre-test/post-test and on the performance assessment. There was also a difference in the attitude toward both student rights’ and responsibilities and cooperative learning in the attitudinal survey given.

The 2005 Journalism class had a 22% improvement in its pre-test score of 72 and its post-test score of 92. The 2004 class only had an 11% (75 to 84) increase while the 2003 class had a 13% increase (74 to 85). The 2005 Journalism class (91% class average) also showed a score 9% higher on average than the 2003 class (82% class average) or the 2004 class (86% class average).

A variety of qualitative data was collected in this study. First, an attitudinal survey was given at the beginning of the unit and again at the end of the unit. The responses given in the post-survey were very favorable in supporting the cooperative learning strategies. Some of the responses included:

“I really enjoyed the different types of activities that we did.”

“We weren’t just in our seats. We were up and moving around.”

“You didn’t just lecture the whole time, you allowed us to check each other to see if we were understanding what was going on.”

I also was able to monitor several students who normally were reserved and failed to get involved in previous group discussion. With the cooperative learning structures, all team members were directed to give responses and feedback. I believe that I was able to see students that were not afraid to answer questions in front of the smaller groups of two or four.


The usefulness of the cooperative learning structures was evident with the increase in pre-test and post-test scores as well as improvement in the Class of 2005’s performance assessment scores. After looking at the results, I wanted to see why these simple structures seem to have so dramatically improved scores. The basic premise of the structural approach to cooperative learning is that there is a strong relationship between what students do and what students learn (Kagan, 3). In fact, students learn more from what they do than from what they are told. This one factor leads me to believe that Kagan Cooperative Learning Structures are valuable in the classroom. However, this information is not necessarily unique to Kagan. So, why do students seem to enjoy the strategies so much? “Students report a love for the structures in part because of the variety they afford, and in part because the structures afford students a relatively equal opportunity for all to become active participants in their language development and construction of knowledge” (Kagan, 3).

“The usefulness of the cooperative learning structures was evident with the increase in pre-test and post-test scores”

Not only do students seem to enjoy the Kagan Structures, they also stated in the survey that they like cooperative learning structures better than the traditional group grades they receive in other classes. I have always been opposed to group grades. It seems to me that the teacher is the only benefactor in group-grading practices. “If an uncooperative student lowers the group grade, everyone in the group – even the most cooperative student – receives a lower grade. Further, group grades on academic projects do not fairly assess cooperative skills of individuals” (Kagan, 2).

I would also like to address why I observed students feeling positive about their own ability to answer questions in front of the class. Three weeks ago some of the students did not want to speak in front of the class. Why? When a student makes a mistake in the traditional classroom — misses a question, for example — the other students can actually benefit. They feel good because now they have a chance to be recognized by the teacher. “In contrast, students in the cooperative classroom are positively interdependent” (Kagan, 1). Positive Interdependence can be understood by asking two simple questions. 1) Is my gain your gain? (When you succeed, is there something positive in it for me?) 2) Is help necessary? (Is it impossible to do alone?) If the answers to these two questions are yes, then you have Positive Interdependence. As teachers, we should seek to make the classwork cooperative, not competitive.

In the future, I will definitely be teaching this unit using cooperative learning structures. The structures that I used are only two out of many possibilities. I look forward to looking for more structures that fit into the subject matter that I teach. It is exciting to see students motivated to learn.


Kagan Works Cited

Kagan 1
Brandt, Ron. “On Cooperative Learning: A Conversation with Spencer Kagan.” Educational
January 1990.

This article is an interview with Spencer Kagan about why he feels structures are so important. The article centers on ideology, theory and research about cooperative learning. This is a valuable article in that it allows you to see that this is just not Spencer Kagan’s opinion. His ideas are imbedded with research.

Kagan 2
Kagan, Spencer. “Group Grades Miss the Mark.” Educational Leadership May 1995: 68-71.

This article discusses the potential hazards of the traditional classroom assigning ‘group grades’. The discussion gives the pro’s and con’s to group grading practices and shows how that practice can be improved using cooperative learning structures. This is a valuable article to my research in the fact that too many teachers still employ many of these tactics that go against what research tells us does not work.

Kagan 3
Kagan, Spencer “The Structural Approach to Cooperative Learning.” Educational Leadership
December 1989.

This article discusses the importance of Kagan Structures to cooperative learning. It also discusses what Kagan believes are the essential differences in competitive vs. cooperative structures. This article is helpful in understanding the difference in teaching styles/methods and how they relate to cooperative learning.