Jigsaw Collaborative Discussion Method

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity<

 

Framing Material

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

Hot Moments

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity

Framing Material

Overview

This resource provides strategies for responding to “hot moments”: the sudden eruption of tension and conflict in classroom discussion. Hot moments often occur when a well-intentioned student says something that is politically charged and personally offensive to some members of the class, or even upsetting to the instructor. These moments can derail the conversation, make the classroom environment toxic, and can be harmful to students if not handled appropriately. This handout gives concrete strategies that instructors have found to be successful in transforming hot moments into opportunities for learning.

Read More

Discussion Guidelines

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity

Framing Material

Overview

This resource offers samples of inclusive discussion guidelines. Setting up expectations for discussion with your students at the beginning of the term can be useful in creating an environment conducive to inclusivity, lively discussion, and classroom community building. Clear guidelines for discussion help establish norms in the classroom for how to handle difficult or “hot moments”, making it easier for facilitators and students to navigate socially challenging material and interpersonal conflict. Later in the term, if discussion conduct begins to deteriorate, a guidelines document can serve to remind the class or individual students of what specific guidelines are not being followed and why it is important that the class recommit to respecting the agreed upon guidelines. The instructor can cut-and-paste from some of the sample guidelines to disseminate to their students, or they can co-write the guidelines with their students as a community-building icebreaker. This resource includes guidelines appropriate to most discussion-based classes and guidelines that are specifically geared toward classes and workshops in which diversity and justice will be prominent themes of discussion.

Read More

Facilitating Through “Perfectly Logical Explanations”

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity<

Framing Material

Overview

This short document from the Commission for Social Justice Educators gives a concise description of strategies of multipartiality in discussion facilitation as a way to challenge dominant narratives that students have internalized and tend to reproduce in the classroom. Unlike impartial facilitation in which the instructor aims to be neutral towards all narratives, multipartial facilitation takes into account how dominant narratives already have significant weight and power in the classroom as the students have internalized the logic and assumptions of these narratives. A multipartial facilitator’s responsibility is to address the weight and power of dominant narratives by inviting participants to analyze the assumptions and limitations of their thinking and encourage the contribution of counternarratives. This is not to be confused with a partial approach where an instructor would advocate for particular perspectives.

Read More

Responding to Common Dialogue Blockers

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity<

Framing Material

Overview

This resource is designed to help instructors manage the challenges of difficult classroom dialogue, specifically the way some students block or divert dialogue as a defensive response to perspectives they find uncomfortable or challenging. The “common blockers,” authored by Kelly Obear of the Social Justice Training Institute, are listed below with explanations of how they act to block dialogue and suggested responses that you or your students can use to respond and restore dialogue effectively. The section on “Facilitator Considerations” gives further strategies for instructors to approach difficult classroom conversations.

Read More

Inventory of Inclusive Teaching Strategies

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity<

Framing Material

Overview

This resource is an inventory of 50 concrete strategies for building an inclusive class. The Inventory focuses on four course components: student-instructor interaction, student-student interaction, content, and instructional practices. Instructors can use the list to consider what strategies they may already be taking toward an inclusive pedagogy, what strategies they may like to implement, what strategies they would like to investigate further, and what strategies may not work for them or their classroom. This resource is best used during the planning stage of a course or while reflecting on the successes and failures of a completed course, but many of the strategies could be implemented at any point of the semester.

Read More

Setting the Tone for Inclusive Classrooms

Home<  Cultivating Inclusivity<

Framing Material  

Overview

This resource details five general practices for building inclusivity in the classroom: (1) Establish clear expectations and goals for classroom interactions; (2) Build rapport and community in your class; (3) Model inclusive language that acknowledges student differences; (4) Help students develop awareness of multiple visible and invisible identities in the classroom; and (5) Address tensions or problematic patterns of interaction. For each practice, several concrete and specific actions are proposed.

Read More