The jigsaw classroom is a research-based cooperative learning technique invented and developed in the early 1970s by Elliot Aronson and his students at the University of Texas and the University of California. Since 1971, thousands of classrooms have used jigsaw with great success.
The jigsaw classroom has a four-decade track record of successfully reducing racial conflict and increasing positive educational outcomes such as improved test performance, reduced absenteeism, and greater liking for school.
Just as in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece — each student's part — is essential for the completion and full understanding of the final product.
If each student's part is essential, then each student is essential; and that is precisely what makes this strategy so effective.
The jigsaw classroom is very simple to use. If you’re a teacher, just follow these steps:
Divide students into 5- or 6-person jigsaw groups.
Appoint one student from each group as the leader.
Divide the day’s lesson into 5-6 segments.
Assign each student to learn one segment.
Give students time to read over their segment at least twice and become familiar with it.
Form temporary “expert groups” by having one student from each jigsaw group join other students assigned to the same segment.
Bring the students back into their jigsaw groups.
Ask each student to present her or his segment to the group.
Float from group to group, observing the process.
At the end of the session, give a quiz on the material.
Elliot Aronson is currently Professor Emeritus at the University of California in Santa Cruz. He has long-standing research interests in social influence and attitude change, cognitive dissonance, research methodology, and interpersonal attraction. Professor Aronson's experiments are aimed both at testing theory and at improving the human condition by influencing people to change dysfunctional attitudes and behaviors.
Professor Aronson received his B.A. from Brandeis University in 1954, his M.A. from Wesleyan University in 1956, and his Ph.D. in psychology from Stanford University in 1959. He has taught at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, and the University of California. In 1999, he won the American Psychological Association's Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, making him the only psychologist to have won APA's highest awards in all three major academic categories: distinguished writing (1973), distinguished teaching (1980), and distinguished research (1999).