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Research: Jigsaw

Jigsaw is a small-group cooperative learning strategy which allows learners to cover many elements of a given topic within a short time period. Working with others, each student becomes an expert on one aspect of the topic under study and gains an understanding of the other elements, through interaction with and support of the other members of the group. There are four steps to this strategy.

Step 1: Establish Home Groups

Divide the class into home groups, one for each of the topics to be studied. For this activity there are six topics, so divide your class into six groups (or as in the chart below you may wish to combine shorter topics and make five groups).

  1. Introduction: Oil and How We Use It
  2. When Oil Spills
  3. Prevention is the Best Cure
  4. Always Be Prepared
  5. Response
  6. What Can I Do to Help?

Note: A glossary is included as well for student reference.

Assign one of the topics under study to each of the students in the home group. Duplicate and distribute sufficent copies of each reading selection.

Note: Heterogenous groups are most effective. Try to balance male/female, personalities, strengths, weaknesses, talents, and interests. Some of the reading selections are longer and more demanding than others. Care should be taken to assign reading selections according to ability. Depending on the numbers in your class, you may wish to assign two shorter selections to one student.

The home group provides an opportunity for each person to share the information they have gathered, answer questions and explain concepts to the other group members, and in turn learn about the topics studied by the other members of the group.

Home Groups
Home Group 1
Home Group 2
Home Group 3
Home Group 4
Home Group 5
Student assigned Topic #1 Student assigned Topic #1 Student assigned Topic #1 Student assigned Topic #1 Student assigned Topic #1
Student assigned Topic #2 Student assigned Topic #2 Student assigned Topic #2 Student assigned Topic #2 Student assigned Topic #2
Student assigned Topic #3 Student assigned Topic #3 Student assigned Topic #3 Student assigned Topic #3 Student assigned Topic #3
Student assigned Topics #4 and #6 Student assigned Topics #4 and #6 Student assigned Topics #4 and #6 Student assigned Topics #4 and #6 Student assigned Topics #4 and #6
Student assigned Topic #5 Student assigned Topic #5 Student assigned Topic #5 Student assigned Topic #5 Student assigned Topic #5

Step 2: Establish Expert Groups

Next, redivide the students, this time into expert groups. All of those students assigned Topic #1 will gather together in one group, all with Topic #2 in another, and so on. All expert groups should contain at least one member from each home group.

Expert Groups
Expert Group, Topic #1
Expert Group, Topic #2
Expert Group, Topic #3
Expert Group, Topics #4 and 6
Expert Group, Topic #5
Student, Home Group 1 Student, Home Group 1 Student, Home Group 1 Student, Home Group 1 Student, Home Group 1
Student, Home Group 2 Student, Home Group 2 Student, Home Group 2 Student, Home Group 2 Student, Home Group 2
Student, Home Group 3 Student, Home Group 3 Student, Home Group 3 Student, Home Group 3 Student, Home Group 3
Student, Home Group 4 Student, Home Group 4 Student, Home Group 4 Student, Home Group 4 Student, Home Group 4
Student, Home Group 5 Student, Home Group 5 Student, Home Group 5 Student, Home Group 5 Student, Home Group 5

Step 3: Information Gathering by Expert Groups

Have expert groups explore the assigned topic, reading, discussing and summarizing the information. The expert group should ensure that each member is sufficiently familiar with the topic to convey the information to the home group and respond to their questions.

Step 4: Information Sharing in Home Groups

Have students return to their home groups. Taking turns, ask the "expert" of each topic to share their knowledge with other members in the home group. For example, each of the Topic #1 experts explains the aspect of oil spills that they examined to the other members of the home group; the Topic #2's explain their reading selection, and so on.

Step 5: Communication

Once all information has been shared in the home groups, have each group prepare a presentation. They may either take a position on an assigned issue and prepare a presentation to defend it or they may answer an assigned question.

Take a position

Sample issues:

Sample Questions for Reflection:

Web sites for additional research:


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