It is no use doing all the flash stuff up the front if your students aren’t engaged with you, the task, the school, or each other.

Nearly every school has ‘engagement’ as a key focus in their charter or annual plan. We know it’s key to student achievement. High levels of active engagement result in increased student achievement and decreased behaviour problems. “People rowing the boat are too busy to rock it”

So, what is engagement? What does it look like? How do you recognise it? Do you have a shared understanding of engagement? Do you as a staff engage students the same way? Do you know how to engage students? All students? Have you specifically identified how you will engage students? Or measure engagement?

We lament the impact societal change is having on our students – lack of respect, tolerance, empathy, resilience, slef-discipline, and social and communication skills. Yet, many teachers are dragging out the same ‘business as usual’ pedagogy (according to ERO, not necessarily me) and hoping for great things to happen. There’s a quote about that…

I asked an awful lot of questions above and provided no answers. Many of those questions can be answered with a simple pedagogical change in how you structure interactions between your students. Yes I know, nothing that significant is ever that simple – is it? Actually it’s not. You will have to work at it. It’s hard to learn from a book, so we offer highly practical and interactive workshops to help you.

Having students work in groups, pairs or teams, does not cooperative learning make. There is a vast amount of research out there saying cooperative learning is effective pedagogy, which it is when done correctly. However, it can so easily be group work which is detrimental to both learning and creating a safe and equitable learning environment and will not close the achievement gap. As teachers we want strategies we can apply in the moment without having to spend an hour preparing. The cooperative learning of old was just that. I know because that was me.

And then I discovered Kagan – hallejulah! At last a way that made sense, that I’d still be using if I’d learnt it in my first year of teaching, and that I can use with any level, including adults. Plus, it’s an holistic approach. It is no use doing all the flash stuff up the front if your students don’t like or trust each other, or you. If they can’t be open and take risks, then their ability to learn and flourish is severely impeded – and you know that’s not just my opinion! Developing that team feeling in your room between all students and yourself is crucial to their development and achievement.

Yet, how many teachers are still teaching the same way year after year and hoping for different results? How many are still asking for voluntary participation (hands up) and wondering why their priority learners are still a priority?

So do me a favour and next time you are doing a team or group task watch closely for these:

  1. students able to not participate or take a turn – in other words deliberately hiding or avoiding
  2. students taking over and doing all the talking or work
  3. students having more time to talk or be active than others
  4. lack of acceptance, empathy or respect
  5. lack of coaching, scaffolding or support from students
  6. priority learners excluded in some way
  7. the same students speaking for the team, getting the materials, recording, typing, cutting, pasting etc
  8. competitive behaviour
  9. put downs or poor social skills – either verbally or with body language
  10. lack of diversity in pairs and teams eg
    • clicky teams/groups of friends,
    • teams or groups of high achievers
    • teams or groups of low achievers
    • samoan team/korean team
    • boys teams/girls teams
    • Years 7s/Year 8s
  11. groups not working well together

These are not evident, or accepted in a Kagan classroom – or staffroom.

If you are interested in making a change, head on over to our PLD section and see what’s coming up, or invite us in for a chat about how we can help.



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