Spencer Kagan and Structured Cooperative Work

Spencer Kagan is a renowned author who has conducted multiple investigations on structured cooperative work.


Spencer Kagan is a renowned author who has conducted multiple investigations on structured cooperative work. This form of teamwork moves away from the way in which knowledge is transmitted in the vast majority of the schools and institutes of today. In fact, it is a novel way of learning as a group, while developing the skills necessary for personal growth.

After his research, Kagan came to make a proposal about what is known as structured cooperative work. He organized the cooperative method in a much more flexible and effective way. In addition, it would allow working with complex and generic issues dynamically. In an article by the author himself in the Kagan Online Magazine, he explains that the reason he chose the word “structures” is because they are like games that are easy to learn and play. Let’s deepen.

The principles of structured cooperative work

When Spencer Kagan designed the structures of his proposal for cooperative learning he thought of 4 basic principles that we must keep in mind if we want to put it into practice. Actually, they are fundamental elements of this type of learning.

  • Positive interdependence: it is achieved by fulfilling the responsibility of carrying out the assigned task individually. In addition, you have to agree with the group on the answers and strategies to achieve a certain goal.
  • Individual responsibility: what one of the group participants does will have a positive or negative effect on the others. Each of the members is responsible for carrying out their task for the sake of others.
  • Equitable participation: all group members should have the opportunity to participate in equal conditions. In addition, the work must be correctly distributed so that one member does not have more than the others.
  • Simultaneous interaction: all team participants must talk, share their opinions and make decisions together. If there is not this, the group can dissolve and not reach the proposed goal.

“Do not do a cooperative learning lesson. With the structures you can make cooperative learning part of any lesson.”

-Spencer Kagan-

Thus, structured cooperative work allows:

  • Develop teamwork skills.
  • Improve the resolution of problems.
  • Improve the ability to defend a particular point of view.
  • Learn to listen to others and respect their ideas, as well as express their own.

The advantages of Kagan structures

The Kagan structures allow to implement certain games that work with a series of specific principles and that have a clear purpose in the classrooms. Each of them can be applied to classes such as mathematics or language, which is great to introduce cooperative work even in those subjects where it may be unthinkable. Some of the names of the Kagan structures have such curious names as “the rotating folio” or “the pairs argue”.

Something very important that structured cooperative work teaches us is that it allows teaching different students. In the standard education that we can all see in the schools and institutes, an educational strategy is used, oriented to only one type of student. But what about those who are more creative? Or for those who memorize concepts to “vomit” them after an exam is impossible? The structures of Spencer Kagan are a great solution that allow a much better learning.

“The structures of cooperative learning optimize the level of participation and commitment of the students”.

-Spencer Kagan-

The need for the implementation of structured cooperative work

Teachers may think that developing a class based on structured cooperative learning can be more tedious. However, it actually involves much less preparation work and the results are more effective. Although in many centers there is a certain way of proceeding, it would be important to introduce some of the Kagan structures, to verify the great results they give.

The education that we can consider “traditional” favors boredom in the classroom, that the students ask themselves “what is the use of studying this?” And promotes an unhealthy competitiveness.

In addition, being the best of the class by memorizing the syllabus to capture the teacher’s attention does not allow the development of the skills contained in the Kagan structures. Very important competences for the future of all those young people that will allow them to have healthy relationships and to develop their work much better.