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Kagan structures promise greater pupil engagement
 

 

Consider a typical classroom scene: the teacher at the front of the class asks a question. A few familiar hands shoot up; a number of faces turn blank. Others stare down at their desk. An answer is taken; understanding is checked. The lesson moves on until the class is asked another question and the process repeats. This is the basic interaction that many lessons will prompt — what might be described as a fairly traditional approach to classroom learning.

 

The problem with this dynamic is that it tends to only engage a limited number of pupils at any one time. Whether an answer is freely offered, or is drawn out from a less-willing participant, other members of the class are left free to let their attention wander.

 

Cooperative learning has, for a long while, been talked about as an alternative to this dynamic, and advocates have talked about the various advantages of more social approaches to learning.

 

There has been a rapid growth in regional interest in such techniques, driven by the positive experiences of a number of schools who have already taken the plunge. In the Kagan approach they have adopted, learning is based around cooperation and engagement. It does not set pupils against each other academically, and it does not provide inequitable benefit to pupils in a particular ability range. The aim instead is to involve and engage all pupils in the classroom, promoting a cooperative learning environment that can excite students and encourage them to support their classmates' learning.

 

It does this through the application of a long list of specially developed 'structures', which are approaches to cooperative learning that provide tightly structured activities to encourage a high level of interaction and activity. This includes various ways to encourage discussions between pupils working in groups, with fixed rules and systems that are easily learned and highly effective.

 

Kagan structures are also extremely flexible, and can be used with any kind of content — whether you're teaching English literature, maths, or biology. This makes them highly reusable, meaning that once learned, they can consistently lead a more engaged classroom over many years.

 

Another key benefit of using this cooperative approach is the embedded curriculum that is delivered during every lesson. Whether they are learning maths, music or basic literacy, the cooperative nature of their classroom experience is also providing pupils with persistent lessons on important abilities such as teamwork, interpersonal skills, honesty and respect for others. Rather than being presented with these skills during a designated lesson focusing on the subject, they learn these skills through regular daily practice.

 

There has also been substantial research that has demonstrated the significant gains in achievement that the approach can produce across all ability levels. Indeed, the success of the system is at least partly founded on the idea that a mixture of ability levels provides the best learning experience for everyone in the class.

 

This social, cooperative approach fits well with the region's character, where concepts such as the majlis and the experience of interacting with people and cultures from across the world are a part of everyday life for many. Cooperative learning can be a natural extension to this, while also providing significant added value through the embedded life skills that students develop during each and every lesson.

 

Reference : www.thenational.ae