SIP 4.10: Cooperative Learning Strategies/ Using Jigsaw

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?

Lecturing is typically the most efficient but not always the most effective means of ensuring student learning.  While listening to a lecture students are passive learners and student engagement with the material is typically low.  In addition, researchers have found more attention lapses by students in a lecture setting than students in classrooms that employed active learning methods. Regardless, lecture still remains the main mode of instruction in most college classrooms.

Cooperative learning is a successful teaching strategy in which small groups of students use a variety of learning activities to improve their understanding of a subject.  Cooperative learning encourages student engagement with the material more than lecturing, and can either be informal or formal.  Informal cooperative learning includes small, temporary, ad-hoc groups of two to four students who work together for brief periods in a class to answer questions or respond to prompts posed by the instructor. Formal cooperative learning involves more structured activities centered around a common learning goal.  While there are several great techniques to use in your classroom to encourage better understanding of material, research has shown that the Jigsaw activity is a particularly effective tool for creating positive inter-dependence in the classroom, as well as providing a means to differentiate instruction.

Take a SIP of This: The Jigsaw

Jigsaw steps:Human figures pushing together a giant 4-piece jigsaw puzzle

  1. Divide the material to be learned into 4 to 6 equal components.  This can be book chapters, theoretical approaches, journal articles etc.
  2. Assign each (chapter/approach/article) to group of students (larger classes will have 6 groups, whereas smaller classes will have 4 groups).  These groups are called the home groups.
  3. The home groups study the assigned material and essentially become experts.  Encourage students to discuss the topic and share notes until everyone is clear on what they need to know and would feel comfortable teaching their topic to another group.
  4. Once all groups have had ample time to learn the material and become “experts”, students break from their home groups and organize into expert groups.  Expert groups are composed of one member from each of the home groups.
  5. Each member of an expert group “teaches” the other members what he/she knows, and the group then cooperatively tackles an assignment that encourages students to pull together all the pieces of a bigger picture, hence the name jigsaw.

Why Use Jigsaw:

The Jigsaw is an effective way of encouraging students to engage with each other and with the course material.  The Jigsaw assumes that students need to understand material well in order to teach it to their peers, which promotes individual accountability.   More so, the format of Jigsaw requires that students contribute meaningfully to a group problem-solving effort.  Cooperative learning provides students with an opportunity for deeper levels of learning as well as positive social and attitudinal gains.

Still Thirsty? Take Another SIP of Cooperative Learning Strategies/ Using Jigsaw


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