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By Amanda Biever

The "Jigsaw" method is a teaching technique that encourages a cooperative learning style in the classroom. For a Jigsaw activity, students are divided in to equal groups, with each member of the home group assigned a different piece of content to research, present, and teach to the others in the group. Each student will initially prepare material on his/her assigned chunk of content individually. Next, students are re-arranged into "expert" groups-- that is, a group containing the other students in the class that have been assigned the same topic or piece of content. In these groups, students share information they have gathered pertaining to their assignment and determine the best approach to teaching this information to their home groups. Eventually, students return to their home groups and present their portion of the topic/assignment.

A great example of how this can work in a classroom can be found here: The Jigsaw Method

Background:

This technique of teaching was designed by an educator named Eliot Aronson, as a direct intervention to tense and racially/culturally segregated groups in his 1970's Texas classroom. The method was initially lauded by those in the education community as an effective way to get students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds to work together and cooperatively in a new era of desegregated schools.

Almost by definition, the Jigsaw method of instruction provides an opportunity for student groups to be diverse in terms of gender, English Language Proficiency, Culture/Ethnicity, Student Ability, or Special Needs and/or Gifted and Talented. Each student in the home group has a part in their group's understanding of the assigned content and whatever final product (Presentation, real-life application, etc) the instructor intends the activity to lead into. Each student is given a chance to research and understand the content on his/her own, and then interacts with their "expert group" to exchange and/or reform ideas.

Specific examples of student roles in this scenario might be:

  1. The Home Group Leader: Home Group Leader provides a structured role for domineering students. They have an extra outlet to help organize their home group's material, and conceptualize the next step of the activity, if applicable.
  2. A struggling student/ student with possible learning difficulties or special needs: These students are still involved in the activity with equal responsibility to their home group members. They are given a chance to independently explore their assigned material, with or without direct assistance from the teacher. Dissemination into expert groups can provide opportunities for these students to share their knowledge, and to learn more or go into more depth by being exposed to different types of information that may have been found by others in the expert group.
  3. English Language Learners: Jigsaw activities provide an excellent opportunity for ELLs to integrate with others in their class, and practice using and applying their English skills in both social/interpersonal and academic ways.



References:

The Jigsaw Classroom (nd) Retrieved from www.jigsaw.org

Cult of Pedagogy [Screen Name] 2015, April 15. The Jigsaw Method. [Video File] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euhtXUgBEts


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