The Jigsaw Classroom

Have you ever tried a jigsaw classroom?

Developed in the early 1970s by American psychologist Elliot Aronson and his students at the University of Texas and the University of California, the jigsaw classroom is a research-based cooperative learning technique for defusing inter-group tension and promoting self-esteem.

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.

The idea behind the jigsaw classroom is to foster cooperation not competition and encourages students to work together as a team and be interdependent.

Each child is assigned to an expert group that is responsible for one part of each day’s lesson. Each group then teaches each other group, which encourages cooperation, friendship, and group success.

There are 10 steps in this technique as follows:

  1. The jigsaw method involves 10 steps which are as follows:
  2. Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups.
  3. Appoint one student from each group as the leader.
  4. Divide the day’s lesson into 5-6 segments.
  5. Assign each student to learn one segment.
  6. Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it.
  7. Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.
  8. Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.
  9. Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group.
  10. Float from group to group, observing the process.
  11. At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material.

Described by some as a “socio-emotional powerhouse“, the jigsaw method requires students to learn from each other (rather than from the teacher) and so learning cannot succeed without students getting along.

For a task to be successful, everyone must take part, swapping pieces and learning from each other. When learning together like this students actually start to listen to, respect, and like one another.


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