Frequently Asked Questions

At Kagan Australia we like to ensure our clients have all the answers to any questions they require providing 24/7 access. We have on this page offered a few of the responses to questions that people have asked. If you would like to ask us us a question directly, email us at

Kagan Cooperative Learning has been taught for over 20 years and many teachers throughout the world have successfully used the structures to boost test scores, improve student engagement, discipline and student social skills. Dr Spencer Kagan has detailed answers to the most frequently asked questions (see questions 1- 15 below) about cooperative learning in his recent book, Kagan Cooperative Learning. Some of these questions are listed below with brief answers. More detailed answers are available in Dr Kagan’s book.

Do Kagan cooperative learning structures help students in Years 10-12 achieve better academic results?

Numerous studies have focused on the effect of Kagan structures on the achievement, attitude, and engagement of students. The research found impressive in academic achievement, a reduction in the achievement gap and improved interpersonal skills. Howard’s study on high school journalism; Murie’s study on college maths; and Mele’s study on high school chemistry showed a minimum improvement in academic achievement of 22% up to 83% compared to other instructional methods. Kagan cooperative learning structures are definitely of benefit to senior students.

Does cooperative learning have a scientific research base?

Yes! Cooperative Learning has perhaps the strongest empirical research base of any educational innovation. Over 1000 studies demonstrate the positive effects of cooperative learning on academic achievement, social/emotional development, cognitive development and a host of other positive outcomes. (Ref. Page 1.5 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Does cooperative learning help students acquire skills employers want?

The most frequently mentioned skills by employers are the ability to work well with other, interpersonal skills and traditional virtues like honesty, integrity, initiative, and a strong work ethic. Teamwork is increasingly the norm; teams are most common in larger organisations. Cooperative Learning structures have imbedded the social skills and teamwork skills that employers want.

Does Kagan cooperative learning help Aboriginal students to learn and does it help close the achievement gap?

Cooperative learning structures definitely help Aboriginal students to feel supported in their learning and connected to their classmates. Aboriginal students respond very well to working as part of a team, as opposed to competitive and individualistic classroom structures. Positive interdependence or a ‘gain for one is a gain for all’ is a basic philosophy of cooperative learning and this is particularly suited to Aboriginal culture.

How can I cover the curriculum if I allow time for student discussions, teambuilding, classbuilding, and even silly sport energisers?

If we want our students to understand and appreciate our curriculum, we need to stop talking on a regular basis and let them talk. It is through student discourse and the interaction of different ideas that students construct meaning. Retention for content as well as love for learning is increased by teambuilding, classbuilding, frequent brain breaks, and energizers. (Ref. Page 1.4-1.5 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

How do we grade group work?

We don’t. Cooperative learning is for learning, not grading. Feedback from teacher, teammates, classmates and self-evaluation is very productive. Assessment should be a reflection of what a student does, not partially a reflection of what other students do or don’t do. (Ref. Page 1.9 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

How does cooperative learning align with direct instruction and the need to boost test scores?

The most frequent use of cooperative learning structures is to have students reflect on or review ideas presented in direct instruction or to practice skills presented in direct instruction. Cooperative Learning compliments rather than replaces direct instruction; it is used to cement learning that occurs via direct instruction. (Ref. Page 1.4 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

How much does it cost to attend a Kagan cooperative learning course?

See Bring in Kagan – Fees and Costs where a fees schedule is available. Course prices vary depending on: the number of participants, whether it is school or Kagan Australia hosted, the venue and the distance the trainers have to travel. For further information please contact Kagan Australia Teacher Professional Learning by phoning on 02 4982 4511 or emailing

Discounts are available for groups of teachers attending from the same school and the Principal may attend for free if they accompany 3 of their teachers.

How often should I use cooperative learning?

As we train teachers in cooperative learning structures, we gradually increase their repertoire of structures. Teachers experienced with the structures use them on an average every 10 minutes, but sometimes the interaction may be as brief as a 1 minute RallyRobin or a half-minute Instant Star. (Ref. Pages 1.6-1.7 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

I have special education students in my regular classroom. What do I do with them during cooperative learning?

Gains for special education students in cooperative learning have been well documented. Students not only improve academically, often quite dramatically, they also improve in self-esteem. Also attitudes of other students towards students with special needs improve. (Ref. Page 1.12 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

I use direct instruction and it works very well. Why should I shift to cooperative learning?

Students need to know how to cooperate if they are to thrive in the job world. Beyond that, there is a very rich, imbedded curriculum students acquire when cooperative learning structures are used. Skills such as empathy, synthesise divergent ideas and how to resolve conflict, specific thinking skills and think on their feet. (Ref. Pages 1.19-1.20 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Is cooperative learning appropriate for gifted students?

For many gifted students cooperative learning is the most appropriate approach possible. Why? Gifted students will do well academically no matter which approach to instruction we take. The question is, will they also do well socially? Cooperative learning improves the range of social; skills, including listening, conflict resolution and helping. Acquisition of these social and leadership skills will determine if gifted students will be well-rounded. Cooperative learning is also very powerful in developing higher-level thinking skills. (Ref. Pages 1.11-1.12 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Isn’t it wrong to teach using cooperative learning when we must prepare students for a competitive world?

We live in an interdependent world in which, somewhat paradoxically, the ability to compete depends on the ability to cooperate. Students need to know how to work independently and how to compete. We feel cooperative learning should be a big part of the instructional diet, not the whole diet. Students in cooperative learning classrooms outperform those in individualistic and competitive classrooms. (Ref. Pages 1.17-1.18 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Kindergarten students are ego-centric. Can cooperative learning work with kindergarten students?

Many kindergarten teachers use cooperative learning every day with great success. Cooperative learning is an excellent vehicle to foster positive socialisation because it emphasises basic social skills as well as skills necessary for academic success. (Ref. Page 1.11 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

My classroom furniture cannot be rearranged. How can I possibly do cooperative learning?

Where there is a will, there is a way! Spencer has taught cooperative learning structures in a 70 student packed classroom, in science labs, on the mat in kindergarten, so in any classroom it will work. (Ref. Page 1.7 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Some of my students are window watchers. They don’t like school. They don’t even work alone. How can I get them to work in teams?

Some students are far more motivated to work as an important member of a team than to work alone. Almost all students are motivated by peer approval, and they see performance for the team as a way to gain approval. Motivation is enhanced also by the use of the structures. The structures are engaging and carefully designed to create equal participation and individual accountability in the context of mutual support. (Ref. Page 1.11 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

What are Cooperative Learning Structures?

‘Structures’ are easy to learn series of repeatable steps that can be used across the whole curriculum to develop mastery (Revision, Review, Recall, Practice etc.), thinking skills (Problem Solving, Evaluating, Analysing, Synhesising etc.) communication skills or for information sharing, teambuilding and classbuilding. Many structures are useful across more than one domain, so for example at the same time as you are reviewing content using Quiz Quiz Trade you can also be working on Classbuilding improving the class tone. As the structures are content free they can be used time and again thus breaking the ‘replacement cycle’. Once you master structures you will be able to make every lesson a Cooperative Learning lesson.

What is Cooperative Learning?

Cooperative learning is a way of delivering your content. Students work in teams of four. The teams are heterogeneously formed. You will learn how to form teams if you attend a cooperative learning workshop.

Lessons are designed such that all members of each team participate simultaneously and: are held individually accountable for their own learning, participate equally so ensuring the success for all and learn to support and value each other both socially and academically. This creates a more effective teaching and learning environment. The ability of students to work with others is an important life skill. Working with others actually improves individuals understanding, stretching the high ability and lower ability students alike.

Where does cooperative learning fit into my lesson plan?

In our approach we do not emphasis cooperative learning lessons; we make cooperative learning part of every lesson by using structures. Without extra lesson planning – by simply using structures – the lesson is transformed into an actively engaging cooperative learning lesson. (Ref. Page 1.6 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)

Why use Cooperative Learning Structures?

Delivering your lesson content using Cooperative Learning Structures is a way of easily increasing the amount of time your students spend ‘on task’. Along with this increased engagement come all the benefits of facilitating the learning of a class where students are all actively and simultaneously engaged in learning. Structures minimise the opportunity for students to become distracted, disruptive and then disaffected by giving them the skills to work with others and to learn independently of the ‘teacher’. Structures enable students to acquire social skills in real-life situations; social skills are embedded in the structures so students, for example, learn turn taking, active listening, empathy, tolerance, respect etc. all without taking any time away from teaching our existing curriculum.

With students all interacting at once, won’t noise escalate? Will my class get out of control?

In cooperative learning classrooms students develop ways of doing “quiet” cooperative learning. They learn to use “quiet” voices – an important social skill. It is possible to have very quiet but enthusiastic cooperative learning lessons. In cooperative learning, we release a great deal of energy by allowing students to do what they most want to do: talk, interact, and move. The social skills program associated with cooperative learning eliminates many management and discipline problems. (Ref. Pages 1.7-1.8 Kagan Cooperative Learning, Dr Spencer Kagan and Miguel Kagan. Kagan Publishing 2009)