Jigsaw Method

Surface Learning Strategy: Content focused.

At this stage, you introduce students to concepts, skills, and/or strategies. Think of it as building a strong foundation. Strategies seek to help student gain requisite knowledge needed to move forward to deep learning.

Remember that "Approaches that facilitate students' surface-level learning do not work equally well for deep learning, and vice versa"

(Source: Hattie, Fisher and Frey (Visible Learning for Mathematics, 2017)).

SOLO Taxonomy: Uni/Multi-structural

Student has a lack of understanding or knowledge of concept. Or, student has an idea of what it is but not what to do with it or how it connects to other ideas.

About Jigsaw Method

The jigsaw technique is a method of organizing classroom activity that makes students dependent on each other to succeed. It breaks classes into groups and chunks assignments into pieces that the group assembles to complete the (jigsaw) puzzle.

The Jigsaw Method enjoys an effect size of 1.20. This makes it one of the most effective instructional strategies you can use.

"The only strategy that seemed to work in all four quadrants (acquiring surface, consolidating surface, acquiring deep, consolidating deep) was the jigsaw activity, which had a large effect size.

In a jigsaw activity students are reading new information, discussing it with others who have read the same thing to extend their understanding.

Then, moving to new groups where they teach peers about what they read and learn new information from group members."

John Hattie, MindShift

How It Works

The jigsaw instructional method is a cooperative approach to learning. In this method, a teacher introduces a main topic and several subtopics. Divide students into “home groups.” Assign each member of the home group a subtopic. Students then divide up to study their assigned subtopic and have a discussion. At the end of the jigsaw, students return to their home group where each has a set time to share about their subtopic. Culminate the activity with a reflection component.

The jigsaw method has an effect size of 1.20, which means that if it’s done right and often, students will grow three years in the space of one academic year.

The method also has other benefits, including:

  • Direct engagement by the students with the material to be learned instead of having material presented to them, which fosters depth of understanding

  • Practice in self-teaching, which is one of the most valuable skills we can help them learn

  • Practice in peer teaching, which requires them to understand the material at a deeper level than students typically do when simply asked to produce on an exam

  • Improvement in social-emotional learning, including increased feelings of autonomy, competence, and intrinsic motivation (Hänze & Berger, 2007)

  • Speaking the language of the discipline and thus becoming more fluent in the use of discipline-based terminology

  • Contributing to the group

  • Encouraging cooperation and active learning and promoting the valuing of all students’ contributions (source)

Three Types of Jigsaw Method - Avoid the Ineffective Methods

Approach #1: Jigsaw as Divide and Conquer (One-Step Jigsaw)

This was my first introduction to the term “jigsaw.” This ineffective application of the label serves as a way to divide a long article into pieces. Each group member takes a piece, then summarizes it for the small group (or large group).

"Harm may be done as less effective readers share misinformation with the group and everyone’s understanding is compromised" (Source).

Approach #2: Home and Expert Groups
(Two-Step Jigsaw)

Only this summer did I attempt the home and expert groups approach to jigsaw. The process involved grouping students into “home” groups. Then, students chose one resource of the available list. Once students decided on their resource, they formed up into “expert” groups. The expert groups worked to plumb the depths of the same article. Then they discussed their takeaways with each other in their respective home groups. Here’s a link to the organizer my students used in Google Docs format.

"In this type of activity, learners still don’t have the opportunity to discuss how their assigned part fits within the whole text; groups just report on the particular section they read. And the critical thinking that’s accomplished through analysis and synthesis doesn’t happen" (Source)..

Approach #3: True Jigsaw (Three-Step Jigsaw)

The critical third step of the three-step jigsaw involves students returning to their expert groups. Once back in expert groups, they discuss how their part fits into the whole.

In the third phase of the jigsaw, students return to their expert groups and discuss how their passage fits into the whole text, based on their discussions with their home group. The point of this third phase is to have students engage in a part-to-whole conversation in which they arrive at a deeper understanding about the text and its implications.

Students think about their thinking (metacognition) and synthesize and analyze ideas contained within the complete text. This process requires that students listen carefully to their peers and analyze the ways in which each part contributes to the entire text. (Source).

Jigsaw Method To Use

  1. Home group splits up into expert groups to explore a specific aspect of a topic.

  2. Regroup into home groups to discuss findings from each expert group.

  3. Split into expert groups to consider the whole in light of Home Group insights.

In Your Home Group

  1. Divide into groups of six people each. This is your Home Group.

  2. Number off from 1 to 6 so that each person in the group has a number.

  3. Each member of the Home Group will be responsible for learning and teaching one "chunk" of content to your peers, assigned by the number you have.

  4. Take a look at your content chunk.

  5. Go join your Expert Group, the people who have the same number as you, to begin the activity.

In Your Expert Group

Working alone in your Expert Group

    • Study your assigned resource for 8 minutes.

    • Jot down the big takeaways, the key points, and/or the must-knows. This jigsaw notes organizer will come in handy.

In Home Group for Reporting

Return to your Home Group. You now have just two minutes each to teach the others in your group what each Expert learned. Use the resources/notes you created as you share.

Individual Self-Assessment

The Jigsaw Method doesn't work unless we assess the learning. So now, individually, please draw your responses to the following questions:

    • What does Hattie’s research mean to you as an educator?

    • What are the take aways?

    • What is one strategy shared in resources that works?

Content Chunks

  1. Article: Hattie Effect Size and One Strategy

  2. Video: Jigsaw Method (Jennifer Gonzalez, Cult of Pedagogy)

  3. Blog: Schmoker’s book, Focus

  4. Blog: The Power of Jigsaw

  5. Video: Intro to RT (Drive) (3 mins)

  6. Research: Reading Comprehension


Respond to any ONE of the questions shared below, then drop your response (complete sentences, please ;-) in the chat. You may want to practice twitterchat protocol and add "A1" for answers to Q1, A2 for responses to Q2, etc.

Q1: Is it possible to do jigsaw in online learning spaces? How might you approach it?

Q2: What potential problems might I encounter in using the jigsaw method in MY classroom?

Q3: How might I use the jigsaw method in my classroom or in a professional learning experience I offer?

Digital Jigsaw Method

It's important to note, when talking about distance learning and jigsaw...

"none of the jigsaw studies collected for any of the meta-analyses were done from afar. In this case, we'll have to take a leap of faith and identify the essential components of a jigsaw and determine how it can be used online."

Source: Fisher, Frey, and Hattie (2021). The Distance Learning Playbook

Organize your instructions and sub topic resources topics in a Google Sites or a hyperdoc to structure subtopic explorations.

Additional Resources