I went on some training this evening (provided by @T2TUK) about using Kagan structures within a classroom to encourage co-operative learning and the active engagement of children within lessons. To say that it was extremely interactive is putting it mildly - everyone ended up: inter-mingling, working and talking with a wide range of staff from other schools to help appreciate not only how valuable sharing ideas with other people is, but also how easy it is too!
Now you might say that collaborative learning is something that you do all the time - especially my followers on Twitter who regularly take part in #ukedchat debates/discussions - but to translate these practices over intro the classroom environment requires a lot more thought in my opinion. The key principles of Kagan learning are that all children have equal opportunities to participate in lessons and that they all have the chance to work with each other - not necessarily the same, continuous friendship/ability/table groups all the time.
Kagan structures are defined as being a "set of steps that organises the interaction of: students with each other, the teacher and the curriculum". Obviously, children do need routines in their classroom and benefit from having some stability with whom they work with, but adding a few Kagan structures into the mix gives them a bit of variety and lets them learn (and likely appreciate) that working with different children can also be worthwhile too (both in terms of their confidence levels and academic understanding).
Three Kagan structures that we covered tonight are:
- timed pair share - where children share ideas with a partner for a set time (e.g. 30 seconds) while the partner listens, before they then switch roles;
- rally robin - where children take turns with a partner to generate a list of words;
- round robin - where children sit in groups (ideally in fours) and take turns to share their ideas.
The importance of having some initial 'thinking' time before starting an activity was emphasised, as was the need to pick randomly which child in each pair/group starts off after this (so no child becomes lazy and doesn't use the thinking time properly).
Some initial ideas that I've quickly come up with of how Kagan structures can be implemented within whole class ICT lessons are:
- timed pair share - the children are given a set amount of time to research a topic and then report a summary of their findings to a partner;
- rally robin - the children take turns to generate real-life applications of certain pieces of software (e.g. a word processor, a DTP program or an online mapping service);
- round robin - the children take turns to describe possible ways to complete a task (e.g. complete a spreadsheet model, control a floor turtle to draw a shape or respond to an online hazard like cyber-bullying).
As I say, such 'active' methods of sharing ideas do need to be balanced out with more 'traditional' learning methods, but I do believe that if they are carefully implemented alongside them, they could have the potential for inspiring children to learn in much more fun and exciting ways that provide equal opportunities for everyone to become engaged in discussing their learning within lessons.