When you get into school either today or tomorrow, whether it’s on your prep period, or during a walk through the halls, take note of who is doing the talking in your schools.  Is it the students?  The teachers?  Take this one into consideration as well:

Brains are more engaged when people are interacting with one another.

Are students interacting in your school?  Are they placed within situations that promote safe conversations and high-yield accountability?  What happens when these answers are “no?”

Kagan shared with us this image that clearly shows the activity within the brain when various learning tasks are going on.  What do you see?
Here’s what I see.

The person doing the talking is the person doing the learning.

Yes, I understand that I just wrote that on Saturday in reference to another session, but it is so much more telling when looking at these PET scans.

Try taking your next lesson plan, your next department meeting or faculty meeting (please do this there) and incorporate some cooperative learning structures into the process.  In looking back at this weekend, I am noticing a connection between two specific ideas: the Kagan structures and the Gradual Release of Responsibility model espoused by Fisher and Frey.  Here is that image once again:


Notice this: your direct instruction is not lost; you can hang onto your chalk and talk.  It just lives in a smaller space within your overall lesson or meeting structure.  That area where Fisher and Frey delineate at Guided Instruction and Collaborative Instruction is where the learning structures of Kagan reside.  So the flow goes “I-We-You(plural)-You(singular).”

Image Credits:

PET Scans: “Kagan Structures Enhance Brain Engagement!” images adapted from Rita Carter’s Mapping the Mind.

Gradual Release of Responsibility.  Image taken from this slidedeck.


6 thoughts on “Attention—->Engagement=Retention

  1. I have been using the The Release of Responsibility model which originated from Pearson and Gallagher with teachers regularly.

    Jeff Wilhelm in his book Strategic Reading: Guiding Students to Lifelong Literacy by Jeffrey Wilhelm, Tanya Baker, and Julie Dube covers this also. You can read an extract at this Australian site My Read:

  2. Those who are talking are learning. I love it. Great visual also. Patrick, here is my question: With more and more students in high school and especially college taking online courses where no one (or “everyone”) is “talking” in the sense as you described it here, who is doing the learning in that format?

  3. Barry,

    Great point, and I truly believe we are entering some fantastic areas when we talk about taking classes online and the different methods that we’ll need for teaching in those situations. From what I remember from the seminar I took at Florida Virtual School a few years back, their teachers spent an amazing amount of time on the phone with their students; it was actually a requirement for all teachers to conference individually with the students a certain number of times per week.

    Does that solve the problem of who is “talking?” I don’t know, but I can think of some amazing advances many of our students in traditional classrooms would get with regular, individualized contact with their teachers about class content in which they were asked to “tell the story,” of what they were learning and ask questions related to their own learning of the material.

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