The jigsaw is an effective collaborative learning activity designed to increase personal responsibility for learning. It is also an efficient strategy for extending the breadth and depth of learning as students can “teach one another” multiple concepts simultaneously during the same class session.
A variety of jigsaw approaches have been developed each of which involves students teaching their peers. This tactic works best when topics are simple enough for students to teach it to their peers, but complex enough to warrant discussion and numerous strategies for instruction.
Students first work in small groups to develop knowledge about a specific topic. They help each other become “experts” and formulate ways to teach the topic to other students.
After students have become competent on the topic from the expert group discussion, they are broken up into new “jigsaw” groups consisting of one student from each of the expert groups as illustrated below.
Each of the students is able to bring the expertise about the topic that he or she developed from the previous group and teach it to the other students in the new jigsaw group.
In designing a jigsaw activity, keep in mind that the subject must be divided into a small number of topics (3-6) for the expert groups. The number of topics will also determine how many students are in each jigsaw group.
Below are five simple steps for implementing the activity:
- Prepare students to become experts by giving them resource material to study individually before placing them in groups.
- Divide the students into expert groups either by student choice or teacher assignment.
- Have students meet in their expert groups to review and master the material. Not only will students discuss the material, but they will explore how they should teach, illustrate, and give examples to their jigsaw groups.
- Arrange students in their jigsaw groups to teach one another. Each student expert takes a turn leading the discussion on his or her particular topic. Encourage students in the group to ask questions and ensure understanding.
- To bring closure and re-emphasize major points at the end of the session, reflect as a collective group on what was learned.
- Rather than having students work in two groups (expert and jigsaw), place students in only one group and have them form pairs to develop expertise on the topic. After discussing the topic adequately, the students rejoin the full group for teaching.
- Select a student to give a summary review of a subtopic to the entire class as closure for the activity.
- Check preparation. Discourage “loafers,” students that might come unprepared, by making sure that students have read the preparation material.
- Assign a leader. For both the expert and jigsaw group, assign students to monitor time, moderate discussion, and keep the group on task.
- Prepare guided questions. Help direct group meetings toward your learning outcomes by providing questions, worksheets, or rubrics to help students self-check and focus their discussion.
- Monitor groups. Systematically scan and visit groups to catch misconceptions and listen for difficulties. Intervene with assistance and direction when needed.
- Quiz students. Test student understanding to make sure that a topic is understood or to see if additional teaching by the instructor is necessary.