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Jigsaw Method: Learning from Shared Expertise

The Jigsaw Learning Method promotes inclusivity by valuing diverse perspectives and individual strengths. It deconstructs traditional classroom hierarchies to promote equality and respect and ensure that each learner plays an active role in everyone’s learning experiences.

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Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.

In today’s increasingly diverse society, where learners bring various personalities, skill sets, and cultural backgrounds into the classroom, accommodating these differences with alternative approaches has become essential for effective learning. Traditional classrooms, by contrast, often promote a competitive and individualistic mindset, which can lead to performance anxiety and the perception of other learners as rivals. This mindset can sometimes lead them to prioritize being at the top rather than focusing on genuine learning.

To address these issues and embrace diversity, educators have tried to come up with cooperative learning approaches that foster cooperation, inclusion, and a more equitable educational environment. According to the cooperative learning theory, learning outcomes are improved when learners collaborate with one another rather than working alone. This theory takes into account the fact that people are naturally social creatures and that teamwork encourages participation, conversation, and the sharing of different viewpoints. In cooperative learning, learners work together with their peers to accomplish a common objective.

Among these cooperative approaches, the Jigsaw Learning Method stands out as it empowers learners to actively engage with one another in their studies, in contrast to conventional classroom methods. In this article, we will look at the origins of the Jigsaw learning method, explore its key components, and discuss how it sparks learning and helps in developing interpersonal skills among learners.

Table of Contents

The foundations of the Jigsaw learning method

In 1971, Austin, Texas, faced a significant challenge when schools integrated students from diverse racial backgrounds, which initially led to tension and hostility among them. Elliot Aronson, a social psychologist, noticed that the traditional classroom’s competitive atmosphere was escalating intergroup hostility and leading students to see one another as competitors. In response, they recognized the need to shift from a competitive to a cooperative approach. This shift gave birth to the Jigsaw strategy, a cooperative learning method aimed at reducing hostility and promoting positive intergroup relations, marking an important development in education.

For over five decades, the Jigsaw learning method has proven to offer remarkable benefits to students and the overall learning experience. Since its foundation, the Jigsaw learning method has successfully been used in thousands of classrooms to bring the concept of cooperation within small groups to life, with each student taking responsibility for mastering a specific aspect of the subject matter before sharing their knowledge with their peers. The name “Jigsaw” precisely mirrors the concept that, much like puzzle pieces, each student’s role is indispensable in completing the educational picture. This collaborative approach not only heightens their participation but also instills accountability and responsibility. Knowing that their fellow learners depend on their knowledge motivates them to take charge of their education. As learners cooperate, seek clarification, and explain concepts to one another, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of the subject, it also improves communication skills and teamwork.

Furthermore, as students cooperate and teach one another, they not only acquire subject-specific knowledge but also enhance their critical thinking, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills, all of which have practical applications in both educational and real-world settings. Jigsaw learning thus provides a dynamic and interactive approach to education, empowering students to become active, responsible, and collaborative learners while celebrating the diversity and talents within the classroom. 

The children gathered in a circle and folded their hands

Step-by-step guide to the Jigsaw learning method

The Jigsaw Learning Method is known for its simplicity and ease of implementation. The process can be broken down into the following steps:

Formation of “jigsaw groups”

The main class will be divided into smaller groups called jigsaw groups, ideally consisting of 5 to 6 learners in each group. The groups should include a mix of learners of different genders, ethnic backgrounds, races, and abilities.

Assignment of content

Each jigsaw group will receive a specific topic, divided into subtopics or smaller, manageable sections. The number of these subtopics should align with the number of members in the jigsaw group so that each member can be assigned one subtopic. Additionally, during this stage, the group can designate a leader to ensure organization.

Formation of “expert groups”

Learners from each jigsaw group who have been assigned the same section of the content gather together to master their specific part. They are called the expert group. The expert group will temporarily collaborate together to delve deeply into their assigned topic, gathering information, summarizing key points, and brainstorming to develop a thorough understanding. They can use textbooks, online resources, or any relevant materials.

Return to jigsaw groups

Following the expert group meeting, learners will go back to their initial jigsaw groups, ensuring that each group includes one “expert” on every section of the content.

Teaching and sharing

At this point, every learner assumes the role of a teacher within the jigsaw group. Their task is to teach their fellow group members about their designated section of the content. This teaching phase includes explanations, discussions, addressing questions, and ensuring that everyone in the group grasps the material.

Assessment and evaluation

To check how well learners have understood and remembered the content, they can do quizzes, have discussions, or engage in group activities.

Whole class discussion (optional)

To wrap up the Jigsaw method, the class can come together for a full-group discussion. During this discussion, they can share what they have learned and reflect on the importance of working as a team and collaborating with one another.

The children gathered in a circle and folded their hands

This is a step-by-step guide based on the original Jigsaw method developed by Aronson. However, it is important to note that there are variations of the Jigsaw method, where the process begins with the expert group immediately discussing and mastering their assigned topics. Then, the members are reshuffled into jigsaw groups, ensuring that each group includes at least one expert from each expert group. After this, they proceed with the subsequent steps.

The primary objective of the Jigsaw learning method is to evaluate learners’ understanding of the entire lesson, emphasizing comprehension of the entire subject matter rather than just their individual subtopics. The effectiveness of the Jigsaw method becomes apparent when learners can fully grasp the entire subject they are assigned to learn, not just the subtopic allocated to them individually. This approach ultimately encourages responsibility for both individual and group learning.

Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much.

The benefits of the Jigsaw learning method

Numerous studies have explored the Jigsaw learning method, shedding light on its multitude of benefits. Let us look into some key findings from these studies to understand the advantages of this approach.

1. It promotes collaboration. The Jigsaw method encourages active collaboration among learners. They must work together to piece together the puzzle, promoting teamwork and communication skills.
2. It reduces prejudice. An initial objective of the Jigsaw method was to diminish prejudice by bridging gaps between learners from various backgrounds. It fosters empathy and promotes understanding within diverse groups.

3. It engages all students. This approach guarantees that everyone plays a meaningful role in the learning process, reducing the likelihood of any learner feeling excluded or left behind.

4. It improves critical thinking. Through instructing their fellow learners and participating in discussions, they cultivate their critical thinking abilities and gain a more profound grasp of the subject matter.
5. It encourages creativity. The collaborative and dynamic nature of Jigsaw learning can spark creativity as learners brainstorm, share ideas, and approach problems from different angles.

The challenges of using the Jigsaw Learning Method

While the Jigsaw Learning Method has numerous benefits, it does come with its share of challenges that call for careful planning and strategies for effective resolution. Frequent difficulties connected with the Jigsaw method include peer interaction, time management, and individual reluctance.

Managing peer interactions within groups presents a challenge, with some members possibly dominating discussions while others remain hesitant to participate. To address this issue, we can establish transparent group norms, assign rotating roles to group members, and promote self-regulation, empowering them to independently manage their group interactions and conflicts.

Time management within the limitations of a class period is another challenge to consider. To make the most of the available time, it is important to make sure that group members comprehend their roles and responsibilities through clear instructions. Using time-efficient structured activities like timed discussions, debates, or concise presentations can help keep the learning process on track. Additionally, staying flexible and ready to adjust the pace to accommodate the specific needs of the class is essential, as certain topics may demand more time than others.

Some may exhibit individual reluctance, often stemming from unfamiliarity or discomfort with the collaborative aspect of the Jigsaw method. In these instances, it becomes essential to provide a clear explanation of the method’s rationale, emphasizing its advantages in terms of enhancing learning outcomes and fostering collaboration skills. To ease them into the process, it can be beneficial to start with simpler Jigsaw activities before progressing to more complex topics. This gradual approach helps build their confidence in the method over time.

the kids are playing an educational game

Integrating technology for modern Jigsaw learning

As education continually evolves to meet the demands of the digital age, the Jigsaw learning method has not remained static. In fact, it has seamlessly adapted to incorporate technology, making it even more powerful and versatile for modern classrooms.

  • Digital collaboration platforms – The rise of online collaboration tools and platforms has simplified learners’ teamwork, regardless of their physical locations. Tools like Zoom, Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and various Learning Management Systems (LMS) offer virtual spaces where they can collaborate on their assigned subjects, share their insights, and work together on shared documents. This has also opened up opportunities to interact with peers worldwide, encouraging cross-cultural interactions and expanding their horizons.
  • Online resources – In the digital age, learners have a wide range of online resources at their disposal to become highly knowledgeable about their assigned topics. Online databases, e-books, educational websites, and multimedia content can complement conventional textbooks and sources, enhancing their comprehension of the subjects.
  • Video conferencing – The emergence of video conferencing tools in schools during the pandemic has brought about a significant transformation in how learners can communicate and cooperate. Virtual meetings enable live discussions, presentations, and question-and-answer sessions, making it easier for group members to share knowledge effortlessly.
  • Data analysis and presentation – Technology also gives learners the tools to analyze data and present information in a compelling manner. They can generate graphs, charts, and interactive presentations to communicate their findings, promoting a more profound level of engagement and effective expression of their ideas.

Integrating technology into the Jigsaw learning method not only fits well with the digital age but also equips learners with the skills they will need for future technological demands. It promotes digital literacy, adaptability, and the capacity to collaborate efficiently in virtual teams—abilities that are becoming increasingly vital in today’s workforce.


The Jigsaw learning method is a powerful approach that fosters creativity, critical thinking, and inclusive classroom communities. It breaks down barriers between learners, nurturing cooperation and empathy. With its roots in cooperative learning and empathy-building, the Jigsaw method remains a potent educational tool that effectively adapts to the digital age, embracing technology and thus providing holistic and future-ready education.
While the Jigsaw method may not suit everyone’s learning style, it is still a valuable addition to our educational arsenal. It offers not only the acquisition of knowledge but also the improvement of interpersonal skills, which will surely become increasingly valuable in the years to come.