DoingCL - Jigsaw






The jigsaw structure promotes positive interdependence and also provides a simple method to ensure individual accountability. First introduced by Aronson, et al. (1978) the basic premis of jigsaw is to divide a problem into sections, one for each group member. Each student receives resources to complete only his/her part. The students who are responsible for the same section join together and form a new, temporary focus group whose purpose is for the students to

  • master the concepts in their section, and
  • to develop a strategy for teaching what they have learned to the other students in their original collaborative learning group.
To illustrate the structure, we will describe four collaborative learning groups, each with four students (Millis and Cottell, 1998):
    Group A: Student 1A, Student 2A, Student 3A, Student 4A
    Group B: Student 1B, Student 2B, Student 3B, Student 4B
    Group C: Student 1C, Student 2C, Student 3C, Student 4C
    Group D: Student 1D, Student 2D, Student 3D, Student 4D
All of the students with number 1 form focus group 1 and are given the same concept to master. Students with number 2 form focus group 2 and are given a different concept to master, and so on. These temporary focus groups become experts in the section given to them and develop a strategy to explain their understanding to their original group members. After the focus groups have completed their work, the original collaborative learning groups (Groups A to D) re-assemble. The students then teach one another the sections they have worked on. To ensure individual accountability, the students can be evaluated on all sections of the task (Millis and Cottell, 1998).

Besides the more traditional jigsaw structure, Millis and Cottell (1998) discuss another variation, Within-Team Jigsaw, where the original collaborative learning team is divided into two pairs of students who work with one another. This pair replaces the temporary focus group. Each pair teaches the other pair part of the knowledge needed to complete the task. If Within-Team Jigsaw is limited to two-part-problems, it becomes easier to implement than a Jigsaw with a four-part structure.

Finally, Clarke (1994) presents the jigsaw structure in stages and discusses several variations of the jigsaw structure including different group sizes and different stage implementation. These stages can be summarized as:

    Stage 1: Introduction of the topic to the class as a whole

    Stage 2: Focused Exploration: The focus pairs or groups of four first struggle with the section they have been assigned.

    Stage 3: Reporting and Reshaping: The students return to their original groups and instruct their teammates based on their findings from the focus groups.

    Stage 4: Integration and Evaluation: The team connects the various pieces generated by the individual members, addresses new problems posed by the instructor, or evaluates the group product.

The jigsaw structure is complex and is probably more appropriate for experienced students or instructors. It may be best suited for the end of the semester when the students are comfortable with group work. There are high expectations and responsibilities placed on the students. Teaching the students in the original group can be a demanding experience for students. This can be mitigated if the jigsaw structure is altered so two group members share the same section and then join with another pair of students, if the sections are more open-ended so there is no single right answer, or if students are encouraged to take notes during the focus groups to provide a support when the original groups re-assembles (Clarke, 1994).

Aronson, E., Blaney, N., Stephan, C., Sikes, J., and Snapp, M. (1978). The jigsaw classroom., Sage Publications.

Clarke, J. (1994). "Pieces of the puzzle: The jigsaw method" In Sharan, S. (Ed.), Handbook of cooperative learning methods, Greenwood Press.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. A. (1998). Active learning: Cooperation in the college classroom. Edina, MN: Interaction Book Company.

Johnson, D. W., Johnson, R. T., and Smith, K. (1991). Cooperative learning: Increasing college faculty instructional productivity (ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report No. 4). Washington, DC: The George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Millis, B. J., and Cottell, P. G., Jr. (1998). Cooperative learning for higher education faculty, American Council on Education, Series on Higher Education. The Oryx Press, Phoenix, AZ.

Slavin, R. E. (1995). Cooperative learning: Theory, research, and practice (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

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