The Jigsaw teaching technique reorganizes students in a classroom into small groups around a learning activity. It taps into the social mind of the individual, the collective intelligence of the groups, and promotes collaboration. The Jigsaw teaching technique was created in 1971 by Elliot Aronson, an American social psychologist. He hoped this collaborative learning model would ease racial tensions in schools that had been forcibly integrated during the 1970’s after Civil Rights Act.
Aronson’s website lists instructions on the implementation of the Jigsaw technique (Aronson, E. (n.d.)):
1. Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups. The groups should be diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, race, and ability.
2. Appoint one student from each group as the leader. Initially, this person should be the most mature student in the group.
3. Divide the day’s lesson into 5-6 segments. For example, if you want history students to learn about Eleanor Roosevelt, you might divide a short biography of her into stand-alone segments on: (1) Her childhood, (2) Her family life with Franklin and their children, (3) Her life after Franklin contracted polio, (4) Her work in the White House as First Lady, and (5) Her life and work after Franklin's death.
4. Assign each student to learn one segment. Make sure students have direct access only to their own segment.
5. Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it. There is no need for them to memorize it.
6. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment. Give students in these expert groups time to discuss the main points of their segment and to rehearse the presentations they will make to their jigsaw group.
7. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.
8. Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group. Encourage others in the group to ask questions for clarification.
9. Float from group to group, observing the process. If any group is having trouble (e.g., a member is dominating or disruptive), make an appropriate intervention. Eventually, it's best for the group leader to handle this task. Leaders can be trained by whispering an instruction on how to intervene, until the leader gets the hang of it.
10. At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material. Students quickly come to realize that these sessions are not just fun and games but really count.
The score for the assessment at the end is an individual score. In 1986, Robert Slavin proposed adding a group score to the individual. Each student would receive 2 scores as a result. The group score would be the average of each student in the original group. The assumption for this change is that including group score "builds in competition between groups and encourages students to work harder at helping each other learn the material well.” (Gonzalez, 2015)
In practice, I’ve used the Jigsaw teaching strategy, for new learning and as a review activity.
When the purpose was new learning, the activity was around the textbook. Groups would be assigned either different chapters or large segments of a chapter depending on how much information needed to be covered as part of the day’s lesson. The assessment after the group work was an oral presentation by each group. I would ask questions based on what I thought was missing from the presentation. After each group was finished, I would summarize the information and fill-in the gaps. No scores were involved.
When a Jigsaw was used as part of a review for a formal assessment, I started by forming Expert groups first. Each expert group would receive a set of questions for which they had to collectively find the answer. The students would then be reorganized into groups where each member had answers from a different set of questions. They would share the answers from their expert group. The assessment was the midterm or a final exam that occurred on the same day. Also, more often than not, the students had received 100% of the review questions to study prior to the day of the official review.
Though the Jigsaw method was created as a tool to use in the classroom to break up racial cliques and promote racial harmony I have not used this technique specifically for that nor have I made the more mature person lead each group as suggested by Aronson. I worked with international, adult students and I have used other small group teaching techniques to foster ethnic tolerance and understanding. For the Jigsaw, I created groups based on strengths and weaknesses and I would let the students decide how they would approach finding the answers to the questions, especially when they were in disagreement, and who would lead. (Usually, that person was the result of self-selection.)
The use of the Jigsaw technique for new learning and review takes advantage of the social mind to augment the collective knowledge of a community.
Aronson, E. (n.d.) The jigsaw classroom. https://www.jigsaw.org
Gonzalez, J. (2015, April 15.) The Jigsaw method. [Video]. Youtube. https://youtu.be/euhtXUgBEts
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