Teacher Resources

The Jigsaw Method: A Teaching Strategy Overview



Bert Slavin, in 1986, aimed to bridge learning gaps among students, particularly in newly integrated schools in Austin, Texas (Teaching Methods).

Over the past five decades, educators have widely adopted and adapted this collaborative strategy from early grades to higher education classrooms.

What is the Jigsaw Method of Teaching?

Like assembling a jigsaw puzzle where various pieces create a unified picture, the jigsaw teaching method involves dividing topics into segments that students or small groups thoroughly explore before merging their findings into a cohesive understanding.

Participants tackle specific subcategories within a broader topic in this cooperative learning approach. They research, develop their understanding, and present their insights to the larger group or class.

Benefits of the Jigsaw Method in Education

Implementing the jigsaw method in the classroom offers numerous advantages. Firstly, students who actively engage with their learning tend to grasp the Material more thoroughly. By immersing themselves in the information, they develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter.

Moreover, participation in group activities fosters the acquisition of essential life skills such as effective communication and meeting deadlines. This collaborative approach encourages discussions and teamwork, nurturing self-motivated learning strategies among students.

Working collectively also cultivates the habit of asking questions to clarify concepts and providing constructive feedback respectfully.

Furthermore, the jigsaw method effectively enhances problem-solving and analytical skills, both crucial cognitive abilities for academic success.

What Material can be used in the Jigsaw Method?

The jigsaw method extends beyond teaching subcategories of a more significant lesson. It can involve groups focusing on a textbook chapter section, a math concept strategy, a country’s culture in a region, a chapter from a trade book, or analyzing poetry or other works of art.

Jigsaw Method Examples to Try in Your Classroom

Individual Pieces

In virtual classrooms or with younger students, a straightforward way to introduce the jigsaw method is to assign each individual a specific subcategory to research. Students then create slide presentations to share with the class, thoroughly exploring their assigned topics.

This approach can also be adapted for traditional classrooms by assigning multiple students to independently research the same subcategory and present their findings separately. This method allows for a more detailed examination of each subcategory within the lesson.

Cooperative Groups

As with any group activity, the teacher divides students into groups of four or five. The number of groups should be based on the number of subcategories that fit into the overarching lesson; then, divide the number of students into groups accordingly.

Each group would then be given a subcategory to cooperatively research and develop. As with the individual approach, each group would create and share a presentation with the entire class.

Jigsaw within Groups

Similar to the cooperative group approach, this method involves each small group member developing a specific subcategory and sharing it within their group. The teacher divides the lesson into subcategories and assigns one subcategory to each small group. All small groups receive the same set of subcategories.

After researching their assigned subcategory independently, students collaborate with peers from other small groups who studied the same topic. This collaborative effort helps them deepen their understanding and become experts in their subcategory. Subsequently, each student returns to their original group to teach their subcategory to their peers.

Group members take notes or complete a study guide to comprehensively understand all subcategories. This approach is particularly beneficial for students learning to collaborate within a group setting and may feel uncomfortable presenting to the entire class.

Assessment Guidelines

Regardless of the type of jigsaw method employed, it is essential to assess all students in every subcategory by the end of the lesson. This assessment not only helps teachers identify areas that may require reteaching but also ensures that all students achieve a comprehensive understanding of the entire content, not just their assigned segment.

Typically, each student receives an individual score based on their assessment. However, in the jigsaw within-groups method, the teacher may average each student’s score with those of their group members.

This approach fosters cooperative learning and mutual accountability among students. It is particularly suitable for older students who grasp their roles within the jigsaw method.

Teaching others is widely recognized as a way to deepen one’s understanding of the Material. The jigsaw method capitalizes on this peer-teaching dynamic, whether applied individually or in cooperative groups.

Students take ownership of their learning and teaching responsibilities, enhancing their comprehension and application of the subject matter. As such, the jigsaw method proves to be a valuable educational strategy applicable across various grade levels.

Frequently Asked Question

What is the jigsaw method?

The jigsaw method is a cooperative learning strategy where students work in small groups to become “experts” on specific topics or subcategories of a more significant lesson. They then teach their findings to their peers, ensuring each group member comprehensively understands the entire subject.

Who developed the jigsaw method?

The jigsaw method, developed by psychologist Elliot Aronson in 1971, was initially designed to foster cooperation and reduce prejudice among students in newly integrated schools.

How does the jigsaw method work?

In the jigsaw method, the teacher divides a lesson into subtopics or sections. Each student or group is assigned a subtopic to research and become proficient in. After researching, students from different groups who studied the same subtopic came together to discuss and deepen their understanding. Finally, they return to their original groups to teach their subtopic to their peers.

What are the benefits of using the jigsaw method?

The jigsaw method promotes active learning, collaboration, and communication skills among students. It helps them develop a deeper understanding of the Material through teaching others and fosters a sense of responsibility for their learning.

Is the jigsaw method suitable for all grade levels?

Yes, the jigsaw method can be adapted for various grade levels, from elementary school through higher education. It is particularly effective in classrooms where students benefit from peer interaction and collaborative learning.

How is assessment handled using the jigsaw method?

Assessment in the jigsaw method typically involves evaluating students’ understanding of the entire lesson, not just their assigned subtopic. Teachers may assign individual scores based on evaluations or average scores within small groups to encourage cooperative effort and accountability.


The jigsaw method is a versatile and effective teaching strategy that fosters collaboration, deepens understanding, and promotes active learning among students of all ages. Developed to encourage cooperation and reduce prejudice, this approach empowers students to become learners and teachers within their small groups, cultivating essential communication and critical thinking skills.

By embracing the jigsaw method, educators can create dynamic learning environments where every student plays a vital role in constructing a comprehensive understanding of complex topics.

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