What is it?

Jigsaw is a strategy that involves creating expertise within small groups who subsequently work to share that knowledge with other small groups eventually leading to the knowledge being distributed throughout the class. It starts by breaking a large task or complex problem into components and distributing them to different small groups who become experts – i.e., each group studies a portion of the topic. The key aspect is that each group is only provided with a portion of the necessary problem-solving information. After researching / investigating their specific topic, the expert groups are split up so that the resulting new groups ...

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Jigsaw is a strategy that involves creating expertise within small groups who subsequently work to share that knowledge with other small groups eventually leading to the knowledge being distributed throughout the class. It starts by breaking a large task or complex problem into components and distributing them to different small groups who become experts – i.e., each group studies a portion of the topic. The key aspect is that each group is only provided with a portion of the necessary problem-solving information. After researching / investigating their specific topic, the expert groups are split up so that the resulting new groups have one member from each of the expert groups. In these new groups, each topic expert presents, integrating the knowledge of his or her specific topic into the new group’s collective understanding. This creates a unique scenario in which each student must weigh in with his or her knowledge to assemble the knowledge and/or problem solution. Jigsaw can promote a sense of expertise, explanation, and knowledge assembly and synthesis.

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When to use it?

Context & Requirements

Level
All Levels
Discipline
All disciplines
Class size
Any class size
Classroom settings
No specific classroom setting required
Technological requirements
Strategy has no specific technological requirements.

Skills Promoted

  • Analytical reasoning
  • Communication
  • Knowledge integration
  • Team work
  • Co-regulation
  • Time management

Who’s using it?

SALTISE community members who use this strategy and are willing to share advice and/or resources.

Level University
Institution Concordia University
Discipline Social Sciences
Instructor Philippe Caignon
Class size All sizes
Classroom setting Traditional Classroom
Resources used View More
Level University
Institution Concordia University
Discipline Biology
Instructor Madoka Gray-Mistume
Class size All sizes
Classroom setting Traditional Classroom
Resources used View More
Level University
Institution University of Guelph
Discipline Environmental Science
Instructor Jamie Miller
Class size 30
Classroom setting Traditional Classroom
Resources used View More
Level University
Institution McGill University
Discipline Engineering
Instructor Chris Moraes
Class size 75-95
Classroom setting Traditional Classroom
Resources used View More
Level College
Institution John Abbott College
Discipline Physics
Instructor Greg Mulcair
Class size 30-40
Classroom setting Active Learning Classroom
Resources used View More

Why use it?

Jigsaw is a effective way to replace a 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. Also the benefits of a Jigsaw activity enables students to investigate everyday devices (or topics) they use to develop core competencies in a course. In addition active learning helps students explore these competencies in a very interactive and stimulating way.

For some students this activity may not be suitable if they have difficulty performing peer-instruction. Another drawback is depending on students to deliver the concepts of the course. Sometimes there can be misconceptions or mistakes that can make it confusing for students trying to learn from other students. Furthermore, if there is a weak group, the topic doesn’t get covered as well as other topics.

Ready to try it out?

STEP 1: Instructor divides students into small groups of three to six students.

STEP 2: Instructor prepares an assignment and divides it into as many parts as there are students in each group. Each member of the group is assigned a portion of the assignment or research project to complete.

STEP 3: In groups, students:

  • research the material(s) pertaining to their section of the assignment and
  • prepare to discuss it with their classmates.

STEP 4: Students form temporary “expert groups” with others who have been assigned the same portion of the project and

  • discuss the material they have covered and
  • prepare to present this material to their original “jigsaw” group.

STEP 5: Students return to their original “jigsaw” group and present the material they have covered.

STEP 6: Using their collective knowledge, students complete their assignment.

STEP 7: Instructor evaluates the completed assignment.

OPTION: Additional assessment of students’ knowledge (individual or group) can be added.

Download Flowchart

Helpful resources

Key figure(s) in the field 

  • Ed Hutchins, University of California, San Diego: Distributed Cognition Theory
  • Ann Brown, University of California at Berkley

Tech Tools

Jigsaw collaborative learning activity on smart notebook

References

Perkins, D. V. and Saris, R. N. (2001). A “jigsaw classroom” technique for undergraduate statistics courses. Teaching of Psychology..

Gömleksi, M. N. (2007). Effectiveness of cooperative learning (jigsaw II) method in teaching English as a foreign language to engineering students (Case of Firat University, Turkey). European journal of engineering education, Taylor & Francis..

Karacop, A. and Doymus, K. (2013). Effects of jigsaw cooperative learning and animation techniques on students’ understanding of chemical bonding and their conceptions of the particulate nature. Journal of Science Education and Technology, Springer..

Doymus, K. (2008). Teaching chemical bonding through jigsaw cooperative learning. Research in Science & Technological Education, Taylor & Francis..

Lai, C. Y. and Wu, C. C. (2006). Using handhelds in a jigsaw cooperative learning environment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Wiley Online Library..

Hutchins, E. (2006). The distributed cognition perspective on human interaction. Roots of human sociality: Culture, cognition and interaction, 1, 375.

Rogers, Y. and Ellis, J. (1994). Distributed cognition: an alternative framework for analysing and explaining collaborative working. Journal of information technology, 9(2), 119-128.

Video

Using Jigsaw With Texts Harvard University, Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning, Social sciences discussion

TO LEARN MORE

For more resources go to Articles and Books