It is hard to believe that October is already here and the year is in “full swing”. Reflecting back, it has been a great start to my second year as a Learning Coach. For me, the school year started in late August when I (along with some of my colleagues) attended the Kagan Cooperative Learning Institute. Like many of my colleagues in our profession, I am a firm believer that professional development opportunities are a great way to not only further develop our pedagogy and practice, but they can also inspire us. For me, the Kagan Cooperative Learning Institute did just that.
As I think back to my first day at the Institute, I smile at how confident I felt in my own teaching experiences utilizing what I thought was cooperative learning with my students. It did not take me long to realize, however, that what I had actually been doing was a kind of “glorified group work”. That realization gave me new appreciation for the research, philosophy, methods and structures that Dr. Kagan spent years perfecting. In fact, the Kagan institute was just the thing I needed to reignite my excitement for the new school year. I could not wait to work with my staff and their students on integrating the Kagan philosophy and structures into their teaching.
Introducing my staff to Kagan came soon after I attended institute, on one of our beginning of the year staff planning days. The Assistant Principal and I had planned on facilitating a P.D. session introducing our staff to Executive Function Skills. Although Executive Function is a fascinating topic, and definitely something that I knew our teachers would appreciate learning about, it can be a little dry at times; so, we needed to be mindful as to how we delivered this important information to staff. This, of course was my golden opportunity to introduce my staff to Kagan. Using the Kagan structures to teach Executive Function was actually very simple, and the response from our adult learners was fascinating and exciting to watch. What I remember most was the focused noise level coming from the cooperative groups as they worked through the Kagan structures. The energy in the room contagious. Seeing staff actively participating in their learning…sharing their thoughts and ideas, with everyone having an equal opportunity to share was fantastic. The positive feedback from staff after our P.D. session confirmed my belief in how effective these structures really are in providing opportunities for optimal student engagement.
Now that a month has gone by, I have had several opportunities to go into classrooms and work with teachers and their students using the Kagan structures to teach concepts in Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. I see the same thing over and over again in each classroom – active, engaged learning with equal participation by all. As the year progresses, I cannot wait to continue my work with teachers on planning, implementing and reflecting on the Kagan structures and philosophy.