The jigsaw method asks a group of learners to become “experts” on a specific piece of content or body of knowledge and then share that material with another group of learners. This method offers a way to help learners understand and retain information while they develop their collaboration skills. Because learners know they will be responsible for teaching the new content to their peers, they often feel more accountable for learning the material. The jigsaw method is most effective when learners know that they will be utilizing the information they have learned from each other to create a final product, participate in a class discussion, or acquire material that will be on a test.
- Prepare the Activity: Choose the content you want learners to explore. It may be a collection of documents (e.g., readings, images, charts), or it could be a series of questions. Also, decide how many learners you would like to work together in each “expert” group. Instructors often find that groups of three to five learners work best. Sometimes, it makes perfect sense to form your groups randomly, while other times, you may want to divide learners in advance to balance strengths, needs, and interests. You can assign the same content to more than one group.
- Learners Work in Expert Groups: In this step, small groups of learners (“experts”) are responsible for reviewing specific material so that they can share this information with their peers. “Expert” groups work best when learners have clear expectations about the type of information they are supposed to present to their peers. Therefore, it is often useful to provide a chart or a series of questions that learners answer together in their expert groups. All group members must understand the material they are responsible for presenting. To avoid having learners show inaccurate or misleading information, instructors can review and approve of content before this information is shared with learners in the other groups.
- Learners Meet in Teaching Groups: After “expert” groups have a solid comprehension of the material they will be presenting, assign learners to “teaching” groups. Teaching groups are usually composed of one or two members from each expert group. Experts take turns presenting the information. Often instructors ask learners to take notes while the experts present. For greater accountability, it is best if learners are required to synthesize the material presented as part of an assignment, presentation, or discussion.
- Learners Synthesize and Reflect: “Teaching” groups can be assigned a task that requires them to synthesize the information that has been shared, such as answering a big question, comparing pieces of content, or generating a plan of action. Learners could also integrate information individually or in pairs. It is appropriate to format a class discussion that asks learners to draw on the material they just learned to answer a question about history and apply this information to society today.