Kagan Structures Respect Basic Principles
Different Kagan structures are designed to implement different principles or visions.
Most Kagan structures involve cooperative interaction and are designed to efficiently
produce engagement, positive social interactions, and achievement because they incorporate
four basic principles, the PIES principles: Positive Interdependence, Individual
Accountability, Equal Participation, and Simultaneous Interaction. The traditional
Whole Class Question-Answer violates all four:
Positive interdependence occurs when there is a positive correlation among outcomes;
negative interdependence is a negative correlation among outcomes. That is, we are
positively interdependent when a gain for one is a gain for another and we therefore
feel ourselves to be on the same side. We are negatively interdependent when a gain
for one can be obtained only by a loss for another, in which case we feel ourselves
to be in competition. In the Whole Class Question-Answer structure there are important
elements of negative interdependence: When a teacher asks a question, many students
raise their hands. As one student is called upon, the others who a moment before
were excitedly waving their hands signal their disappointment as they lower their
hands -- the gain for one (being called on) is a loss for another. If the selected
student hesitates or begins to miss the question, the other students wave their
hands with glee, the loss of their classmate is a gain for them. Only if the answering
student fails can the other students win an opportunity to be called upon. Inadvertently
the students have been set against each other. A gain for one is a loss for another.
The students do not experience themselves on the same side. This negative interdependence
undermines desired social outcomes such as sharing, caring, helping, and empathy.
In the Whole Class Question-Answer structure teachers call on volunteers, asking
"Can anyone tell me...?" "Who would like to...?" or "I need a volunteer to share..."
Any student can avoid being called upon by simply not raising his/her hand, violating
the principle of Individual Accountability. Because students know there is no required
individual accountability, many do not put in their best effort. For example, students
are aware that no one will know if they are daydreaming in class: They do not have
to be engaged.
During Whole Class Question-Answer as we move beyond Nursey and Reception class
where all students raise their hands, only a subset of the class always or almost
always raises their hands. As we move up the year groups, a larger and larger subset
seldom or never do, violating the principle of Equal Participation.
During Whole Class Question-Answer only one student at a time is called on, leading
to very little overall overt active participation, violating the principle of Simultaneous
Interaction. In six minutes of Whole Class Question-Answer, the teacher can call
upon and respond to about three students. Subtracting time for the teacher to ask
each question, call on each student, and respond to each answer, in the six minutes,
the three students receive at most about a minute each to verbalise their answers.
Most of the class is not actively involved. One-at-a-time participation amounts
to little overall engagement for most students because it takes thirty minutes to
listen to each student in the class for one minute if they speak one at a time.
During that thirty minutes, each student has been an active participant for only