At a Glance


  • Social sciences

Instructional Level

  • University

Tasks in Workflow

Social Plane(s)

  • Group
  • Whole Class

Type of Tasks

  • Discussing
  • Solving problems
  • Presenting

Technical Details


  • Single class period (< 90 mins)

Instructional Purpose

  • Application & knowledge building


In this jigsaw-based activity, students learn about definitions (key components of a definition such as required terminology, definition structure, etc.) through class and group discussion, as well as peer-instruction. The class begins with a video (Dr. Nozman: Ceci n’est pas un végétal) that challenges students’ preconceptions of definitions and classification systems. As a class, students then reflect on and discuss the video, and share their own preconceptions of what they believe a definition to be.

The class is then divided into groups of 3-6 students and each group is given a text block on a topic related to the study of definitions. Students are responsible for becoming experts on their group’s topic. They work together to understand the material; however, each individual in the group is responsible for identifying and understanding key concepts in the text. Once students feel they have sufficiently mastered their topic material, ‘expert’ groups are separated and students form new groups. Each member of the new group is an expert on a particular topic. In their new groups, students take turns teaching their peers about their expert topic. By the end of the class, students will have acquired knowledge of all the presented topics. Students are then tasked with using their new knowledge in a think-pair–share problem-solving exercise.

Instructional Objectives

  • Students will be able to identify key concepts related to a topic on the study of definitions
  • Students will be able to articulate their knowledge of the topic to their peers

Workflow & Materials


Activity Workflow

View on CourseFlow

Contributor's Notes

Philippe Caignon

Philippe Caignon

Concordia University, Montreal


Teacher for a Day: Defining a Definition’ has replaced a 2+ hour content-heavy lecture with an activity that is more engaging and encourages deeper thinking. Students enjoy becoming “subject experts” and are very enthusiastic about teaching their peers. Allowing them to teach each other gives students a sense of responsibility and shared learning.


This activity may not be suitable for all students. Some may have difficulty performing peer-instruction.


Allow students that may have difficulty with this activity to ‘shadow’ the instructor as the instructor walks around the room to answer question. This way, the students are still learning but are not required to directly take part in peer instruction.

Applied Strategies


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