Jigsaw Collaborative Discussion Method

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Overview

This page introduces the Jigsaw method and describes how to use this method in classroom activities. Jigsaw was first developed as a way to combat racial bias among elementary school students. In the early 1970s, social psychologist Elliot Aronson developed this method after being asked to help diffuse tension in classrooms where black, Hispanic, and white students had recently been integrated. Aronson and his team observed that the students were learning in a competitive environment. With his research team, he recommended creating a cooperative environment where students had to depend on each other to learn assigned material well. In just a few weeks, students initially hostile to one another were, instead, encouraging each other to succeed and learn the material well. Racial tensions were largely diffused, and students learned the assigned material with a higher level of mastery. A letter from one of the students in this first Jigsaw classroom is available at jigsaw.org.

Research has shown this method is useful for learners of all ages. The primary strategy is to create assignments and activities that allow students to cultivate topic-specific expertise and then teach the material they have learned to other students in the class. Student groups are then asked to draw on everyone’s expertise to complete a task together or prepare for an individual exam.

To learn more about the Jigsaw method, as described by Dr. Janet Rankin, Director of the Teaching and Learning Lab at MIT, view this video.

To learn about two different approaches to using the Jigsaw method, view this video.

Goals

  • To encourage students to cultivate confidence in themselves and each other using collaborative learning.
  • To mitigate stereotyping and other kinds of bias that create negative learning environments for students across all social identities.

Challenges

Planning groups can take quite a bit of time, and remember that you will need to create two sets of groups. In the “expert” group, students learn the same body of information or skill together. They are then asked to join their “home” or “jigsaw” group to teach the material they have learned. For expert groups, try to avoid assigning content or tasks that are stereotypical of students’ social identities. For example, avoid creating an all-male group tasked with learning a mechanical lab skill or an all-female group tasked with learning a communication skill.

Strategies and Implementation for Teaching

Abigail Stewart, Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan, Joyce Yen, Director of the ADVANCE Center for Institutional Change at the University of Washington, and Sapna Cheryan, Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington, developed content for using the Jigsaw method in their classes. Their teaching materials are included below and may be adapted for use in your classroom:

Integration with Course Content

In its simplest version, an instructor can form groups A, B, and C and assign each group a different reading or lab skill to learn. These are called “expert” groups. Once each student group has mastered the required content or skill, the instructor then forms new groups with one student from A, B, and C in each group. These are called “home” or “jigsaw” groups. Those students are now “experts” in the material they learned in their original groups, and they can teach students in the home group what they have learned.

This approach can work well in STEM classes where students must work in lab or project teams, and it can be applied in other classes where students read assigned content and then teach that content to one another in small groups or class presentations.

Additional Resources

Websites

The Jigsaw Classroom” – provides a history of this method and resources for implementation.

4 Things You Don’t Know About the Jigsaw Method” – provides advice for modifying Jigsaw and troubleshooting come problems.

Articles

Aronson, E., N. Blaney, et al. (1978). The Jigsaw Classroom. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Baviskar, S.N. (2013). “Implementing Jigsaw Technique to Enhance Learning in an Upper-Level Cell and Molecular Biology Course.” Exemplary College Science Teaching. 107-118.

Colosi, J.C., Zales, C.R. (1998). “Jigsaw Cooperative Learning Improves Biology Lab Courses.” Bioscience. 48(2), 118-124. DOI: 10.2307/1313137

Nolan, J. M., Hanley, B. G., DiVietri, T. P., & Harvey, N. A. (2018). She who teaches learns: Performance benefits of a jigsaw activity in a college classroom. Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Psychology, 4(2), 93-104. DOI: 10.1037/stl0000110

Implicit Bias

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Overview

This page provides resources for learning about implicit bias and includes readings and recommendations for incorporating this concept into your teaching strategies. Implicit bias describes the way that stereotypes and attitudes we are not aware of shape our behavior. Research shows that implicit bias is a concern in STEM courses, where instructors and students may carry assumptions or hold stereotypes in mind that are not supportive of an inclusive teaching environment. For more information about implicit bias, please refer to this widely known study, Project Implicit.

Project Implicit uses the Implicit Association Test (IAT), a tool developed by Anthony Greenwald, Professor of Psychology at the University of Washington and Mahzarin Banaji, Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard, to study prejudice in social contexts. The IAT assesses unconscious or implicit bias in the context of social identity. The test was later implemented in a study that is ongoing, Project Implicit, and is currently housed on servers at Harvard. To hear Dr. Greenwald and Dr. Banaji discuss this research, view this video.

Goals

  • To explain implicit bias and how it is relevant to inclusive teaching practices in STEM classes.
  • To provide strategies for addressing possible bias in one’s teaching and interactions with students.

Challenges

Some researchers and media personalities have questioned the validity of implicit bias after one of the originators of the IAT acknowledged problems with the test. Critics claim that, because the test is imperfect, implicit bias must not exist. Notably, however, there is a significant body of research on implicit bias that does not use or rely on the IAT. This body of work shows conclusively that implicit bias is a significant problem, particularly in STEM education. See, for example, this review article about women leaving academic research settings because of unconscious bias:

Easterly, D.M., Ricard, C.S. (2011). Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research. Journal of Research Administration. 42, 61-73.

Implementation

Consider taking the IAT and reflecting on your results. Consult the resources below to learn more about implicit bias and how to address your own biases and how they may shape your teaching.  

In addition, consider adapting the assignment below for use in your class.

Integration with course content

Consider showing one of the videos below in your course, or ask students to view a video outside of class and then write a short reflection about how implicit bias may or may not shape their experiences as a student.

After reviewing one of the videos or articles below, ask students to discuss or write about ways that unconscious bias may have influenced projects or research in your field of study.


Additional Resources

Banaji, M.R., Greenwald, G.G. (2013). Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People. New York: Bantam.

Dee, T., Gershenson, S. (2017). Unconscious Bias in the Classroom: evidence and opportunities. Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis.

Jackson, S., Hillard, A., Schneider, T. (2014). Using Implicit Bias Training to Improve Attitudes about Women in STEM. Social Psychology of Education. 17.3

LaCrosse, J., Sekaquaptewa, D., Bennett, J. (2016). STEM Stereotypic Attribution Bias Among Women in an Unwelcoming Science Setting. Psychology of Women Quarterly.

Nordell, J. (2017). Is this how discrimination ends? The Atlantic.


Videos

“Understanding unconscious bias.” A 3-minute explanation of how implicit/unconscious bias works created by The Royal Society. 

Implicit Bias Video Series from UC Berkeley.

“How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them.” An 18-minute TED Talk by diversity advocate Verna Myers.

Growth Mindset Activity for STEM

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Overview

Previous research has shown that socio-psychological interventions are effective at mitigating some of the negative factors, such as stereotype threat, that result in racial, gender, and first generation achievement gaps in STEM classrooms. This activity is an intervention to instill a growth mindset in students in a STEM classroom. Growth Mindset is the belief that abilities and traits can be developed through strategic efforts and hard work, and are not simply innate or fixed. This is especially important for members of social groups that are negatively stereotyped by harmful and inaccurate messages about the innate intelligence or abilities needed to succeed in STEM disciplines. This activity has students write or discuss the science behind intelligence and its development.

Goals

  • Instill a mindset in students that motivates them to challenge themselves to grow and develop their intellectual abilities through strategic hard work.
  • Implicitly challenge negative gender-based or racial stereotypes about students’ intellectual abilities.
  • Foster student reflection on their study strategies after exposure to growth mindset materials, in order for them to be strategic in their hard work at developing the abilities and traits they need to succeed in the class.

Implementation

  • This activity is most impactful when the traits and abilities needed to succeed in the course are stated clearly for students as part of the activity.
  • It is beneficial if the instructor introduces the activity with a short narrative about how they have developed the traits and abilities they needed to master the material they teach, and how they try to maintain a growth mindset today.
  • This guide contains two options for fostering a growth mindset in students.

Challenges

  • There will be students who believe they already have a growth mindset, and they might think the activities are not a good use of their time.
  • It is less effective, and potentially detrimental, to simply tell students to change from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, or to simply tell them to work hard. It is more effective and important to explain why they should work hard.

 

Option 1: Writing Assignment

why: Research on the effect of a growth mindset intervention found that it was beneficial to have students complete a short writing assignment that consisted of them reflecting on their study habits and plans after being exposed to growth mindset and neuroplasticity materials. The research showed that it was especially impactful for underrepresented minorities and first generation students. For more information, see the annotation in our Recommended Readings.

when: Students should be asked to complete the assignment two weeks before an exam according to the evaluation of this intervention.

how:

Introduction

The instructor introduces the assignment with a short story about how their understanding of an effective mindset and the nature of intelligence made it possible for them to develop the traits and abilities they needed to master the material they teach, and how they try to maintain a similar mindset today.

Assignment Description

Please submit a 200 word Written Reflection responding to the questions below after watching the 2 videos

  • Before watching these videos, what was your perspective on becoming more intelligent on [course topic]? What do you think now?

View Growing your mind video by Khan Academy

Please address the following questions:

  • What evidence from the video demonstrates how you can change what you know about [course topic] or any topic?
  • How will you try to learn more about [course topic]?

View Neuroplasticity video

Please address the following questions:

  • In the past, what is a habit you have had to start or stop?
  • Would you be willing to stop an existing habit or start a new habit in order to try to become more intelligent on [course topic]?
  • What is a habit that you need to refine, or make better, in order to change how much you know about [course topic]?

 

Option 2: Writing Assignment

why: Research on the effect of a growth mindset intervention found that it was beneficial to have students complete a short writing assignment that consisted of them reflecting on their study habits and plans after being exposed to growth mindset and neuroplasticity materials. The research showed that it was especially impactful for underrepresented minorities and first generation students. For more information, see the annotation in our Recommended Readings.

when: Students should be asked to complete the assignment two weeks before an exam according to the evaluation of this intervention.

how:

Introduction

The instructor should introduce the activity as a neuroscience lesson without telling students explicitly that they should have a growth mindset or that they should think in any particular way. The lesson on how it is possible to rewire the brain and increase intelligence can begin with a personal short story about how the instructor has developed the traits and abilities they needed to master the material they teach, and how they try to maintain a similar openness to intellectual challenges.

Before showing the video, do a brief exercise with the class by asking the following question:

1. What determines our intelligence?
– Have students raise their hands if they believe it is something that is unchangeable and predetermined by nature (like genes)
– Have students raise their hands if they believe it is something that can be grown through strategic efforts

Show class: Growing your mind video by Khan Academy

Follow with a discussion as whole class, or in smaller groups that then report back to whole class:

2. How will you try to learn more about [course topic]?
– Review of materials recommended by professor
– If appropriate, practice problems that challenge

3. Additional questions on pg. 3 of Khan Academy and PERTS lesson plan for Growth Mindset activity, if more time is available

Show class: Neuroplasticity video

Follow with a discussion as whole class, or in smaller groups that then report back to whole class:

1. What makes our brains adaptable, or change?
Instructor response using the language of the video: when you think or do something you are directing your mind down a particular road or pathway in your brain, repeatedly thinking a certain way or doing something strengthens the pathway, the opposite is true too: not thinking a certain way or ceasing to do something weakens a pathway

2. How do people establish new habits or ways of thinking?
Instructor response using the language of the video: With time new pathways (synaptic connections between neurons) can be carved through directed attention and repetition

 

Additional Resources

Growth mindset video by The University of Arizona featuring STEM faculty

lesson plan for Growth Mindset activity by Khan Academy and PERTS

TED talk on growth mindset research by Dr. Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University

Incorporating Language about Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Abuse into Your Course Syllabus

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Overview

Students come to college with a wide-range of personal experiences, positive and negative. Additionally they may experience sexual or gender-based violence during their time on campus. In fact, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of male undergraduates experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. Graduate students are not immune from this issue. Among graduate and professional school students, 8.8% of females and 2.2% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation. For more information, see these statistics. Instructors should consider whether their course structure and content might create a difficult learning environment for students who have had these experiences. This resource provides language that instructors can include in their course syllabus to let students know they are supported and welcomed into an inclusive learning community.

Goals

To use language and provide resources in your syllabus that create a welcoming and supportive environment for students who have experienced gender-based violence and sexual abuse.

Challenges

Before including this content in your syllabus, consider the challenges listed below. Talk with a colleague or CRLT teaching consultant if you have questions or concerns.

  1. Content notification: When addressing controversial subjects or assigning material which may elicit strong feelings, instructors may or may not choose to disclose this information in advance in a syllabus. Both avenues have the potential to limit learning outcomes and constrain the types of conversations that can occur inside the academic environment. We use the term “content notification” (as opposed to “trigger warnings”) as a way to inform students of class content, such as assignments, readings, and speakers, so that students can take steps to prepare themselves for class and study. Content notifications are a way to help students prepare for class so that they can show up to class in an engaged, participatory manner.
  2. Privacy: We recognize and appreciate that disclosing personal experiences in the classroom can feel healing for some and may contribute positively to the learning environment. However, this varies, depending on disciplinary norms and the comfort level of the faculty member or instructor. When responding to personal disclosures related to sexual violence, racism, homophobia, classism, or other forms of interpersonal violence and discrimination, it is ultimately up to the faculty member or instructor leading the class to establish personal boundaries that are consistent with disciplinary norms and their personal comfort level.
  3. Privacy: We recognize and appreciate that disclosing personal experiences in the classroom can feel healing for some and may contribute positively to the learning environment. However, this varies, depending on disciplinary norms and the comfort level of the faculty member or instructor. When responding to personal disclosures related to sexual violence, racism, homophobia, classism, or other forms of interpersonal violence and discrimination, it is ultimately up to the faculty member or instructor leading the class to establish personal boundaries that are consistent with disciplinary norms and their personal comfort level.
  4. Legal Constraints: University policy and federal law mandate the reporting of certain violent crimes. However, students may share information without fully understanding the limits to which some faculty members can keep certain kinds of information confidential. To help all parties be fully informed of the potential consequences of sharing information, it is important for faculty and instructors to understand their reporting requirements at the University of Michigan. These requirements differ for individuals who are designated by the University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity (OIE) as “Responsible Employees”. It is important to note that your roles and responsibilities can change, even within a semester. For more information about Responsible Employees, and to learn about reporting requirements and recommendations that apply to all employees, please see the Responsible Employees Website.

Implementation

Depending on course content, the categories and language listed below may be useful for you to include in your syllabus.

 

Incorporating Language about Gender-Based Violence and Sexual Abuse into Your Course Syllabus

  1. Faculty Support
    • Faculty are here to support you in your learning. Contact the professor if you are concerned or uncomfortable; they will be available during office hours or by appointment throughout the course for conversations regarding course content.
    • For debriefing about the class, we strongly encourage you to attend office hours or set up a meeting.
  2. Content Notifications
    • In this class, we will be having honest and open conversations about…
    • Some of these topics may be difficult, unsettling, or painful for survivors and others.
    • Assignments or discussions may precipitate reactions such as distress, anxiety, anger, and others.
    • Review the course schedule for a weekly list of topics discussed, prepare yourself accordingly, and ensure self-care is well practiced.
  3. Self-Disclosure & Personal Sharing
    If you choose to address self-disclosure/personal sharing at the beginning of your class, some examples include:
    • It is the professional norm in our field to refrain from disclosing personal experiences of abuse, harassment, or assault to colleagues in a classroom or during interactions with clients/patients. This is because people are not free to leave classrooms or professional spaces in the same way they would be free to leave personal conversations. Confidential reports can be made to the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and the University Ombuds.
    • In this class we will use our [writing/art/etc.] to explore our past experiences. If you would like support around a personal experience that you are managing, here is a list of campus resources.

If you do choose not to address self-disclosure/personal sharing at the beginning of your class, then it is important to disclose your reporting requirements. Some examples include:

  • Please note that there are limits to the confidentiality with which we can provide you, and I am not in a position to ensure complete confidentiality. Additionally, I cannot compel other students to keep private what is shared in discussion.
  • See additional examples in the Confidentiality Limitations Section below.

Confidentiality Limitations
Please note that there are limits to the confidentiality with which we can provide you, and I am not in a position to ensure complete confidentiality. Additionally, I cannot compel other students to keep private what is shared in discussion.

If you are designated as a Responsible Employee by the University of Michigan, then some potential syllabus language might include:

  • I care about the health, well-being, and safety of all students. I also want students to know that I am designated as a Responsible Employee on this campus, which means I am required to share information about sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, sexual harassment, and gender based harassment, if I am made aware of it. I am sharing this information so that students can make informed decisions about what information they share and with whom. The confidential offices on campus are the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and the University Ombuds. Please let me know if you have any questions.
  • I am designated as a “Responsible Employee” by University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity, which means I am required to report instances of Prohibited Conduct.

If you are not designated as a Responsible Employee by the University of Michigan, then some potential syllabus language might include:
I am not designated as a “Responsible Employee” by the University of Michigan Office of Institutional Equity. Therefore, I am not required to report instances of Prohibited Conduct, but I am still strongly encouraged to report. The confidential offices on campus are the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center (SAPAC), Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), and the University Ombuds.

Resources for Faculty

Determine the scope of your reporting responsibilities by taking this online quiz.
Responsibilities at Michigan: Sexual Assault, Intimate Partner Violence, Stalking, and Sexual and Gender-Based Harassment

Additional resources related to sexual assault, intimate partner violence, stalking, and sexual and gender based harassment are at the following sites:
Learn more about the U-M Student Sexual Misconduct Policy at https://studentsexualmisconductpolicy.umich.edu/

Learn more about the Responsible Employees designation at https://hr.umich.edu/working-u-m/workplace-improvement/office-institutional-equity/information-responsible-employees

If you are a Responsible Employee (RE) consider downloading the “RE” sign and hanging it in your office so it is visible to others. The sign is available at https://hr.umich.edu/sites/default/files/RE-8×10-long.pdf

Browse a resource guide intended to assist university students, faculty, and staff who may have experienced sexual misconduct to understand their options for reporting and to make them aware of support resources, Our Community Matters at http://dpss.umich.edu/docs/community-matters-brochure.pdf

Haven Training for Faculty & Staff is an online training program covering sexual and gender-based misconduct and other forms of interpersonal violence.
It can be accessed at https://hr.umich.edu/working-u-m/workplace-improvement/office-institutional-equity/education-training-programs