In the “Research in Action” section of the American Psychological Association’s website, this prestigious professional association states its unqualified support of the jigsaw approach as the answer to the question of “How to Build a Better Educational System.” The only question the author raises is why the approach isn’t being used even more broadly: in jigsaw classrooms, weaker students improve, stronger students continue to thrive, and children like each other more.
In this short video, Elliot Aronson talks about the jigsaw classroom. We see that even young children can engage in this structure easily and effectively. Jigsaw is used worldwide at all grade levels, in professional development, and in business training programs.
In this article, an engineering and mathematics teacher explains why he evolved into a avid supporter of jigsaw. The heart of the matter? "Looking back, based upon the research I have since read, I am not surprised," stated Panitz. "I was doing all the critical thinking by writing and explaining the concepts, strengthening my own brain synapses -- not the students'!"
This webpage does a great job of explaining why jigsaw works so well. For example, when you teach something to someone else, as in peer tutoring, you learn the material at a deeper level than if you are simply studying it for a test. And in jigsaw, every student becomes a peer tutoring. This resource also emphasizes the importance of a culminating group problem-solving task that requires the knowledge of each “expert” in the group for successful completion.
In this resource, a middle school teacher tells why she decided to use jigsaw and what happened when she did. Her tips for new users are: 1) Prepare, prepare, prepare; 2) Think through the management of the activity; and 3) Don’t give up after the first time you try jigsaw. She also describes how she used a jigsaw lesson to have students discover the definition of a “fairy tale.”
Typically, the material for Jigsaw is a single text divided into sections, but there are many other options, as suggested in this resource. You could assemble short selections on the same topic that supplement a textbook unit. Or, you could use texts that present different viewpoints on the same topic. The American folklore lesson linked to this resource has a great twist to it.
If you’ve watched the video about the steps in the Jigsaw method, you can skip past that section of this resource. It then goes on to emphasize the research that documents the social-psychological benefits of Jigsaw: “The Jigsaw classroom has a four-decade track record of successfully reducing racial conflict and increasing positive educational outcomes such as improved test performance, reduced absenteeism, and greater liking for school.”
This method is so difficult to explain in words, and this video explains it so well with the addition of simple colored graphics. I would actually show this video to the class, rather than try to explain the steps. I love that the author points out that the “chunks of content” that are assigned out to group members don’t have to be sections of the textbook—they can be handouts, websites, or other sources of content as well—and be sure to check out the Jigsaw II variation.