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Strategy Bites: Jigsaw


At Teaching and Learning Services, we regularly receive questions from instructors asking for ideas to enhance their teaching and improve students’ engagement in class. So, we’ve recorded 2-3 minute video bites that describe how to implement some strategies we’ve chosen based on relative ease of implementation, suitability for different class sizes, and their representation of a variety of interaction types. We’ll be sharing these strategies in the Teaching for Learning @McGill University blog over the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Strategy: Jigsaw

The jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy. It works best when knowledge needs to be pooled to address a problem.

Why use this strategy?

A professor once told our class that the best way to learn the course material was to become expert enough that you are able to teach it to a beginner. This advice resonated with me throughout my years as a university student and became an integral part of my personal study strategies. When I read about the Jigsaw Teaching Strategy, I immediately associated it with this advice as it heavily relies on students teaching the course content to each other.

JigsawExpertGroup The jigsaw strategy begins with dividing students into groups of 4-5 students and giving each group a topic to discuss and become “experts” on.

JigsawNewGroupOnce groups have developed their expertise with that topic, the students are regrouped so that each new group contains one person from the “expert” groups. Students then teach the material they learned to their peers in their new group. This way, everyone is exposed to all the topics that were assigned.

At a group level, this strategy, which is a cooperative learning strategy, calls upon students to rely on each other for their learning, and for promoting interactions and collaboration to succeed. Students are given a greater sense of responsibility and they have the opportunity to draw on a more diverse range of perspectives than if the content had been presented solely by an instructor lecture. Having students work this way also taps into the value of different teaching approaches: sometimes, peers know how to convey information to peers in ways that instructors don’t think of. Ultimately, what I appreciate most about this teaching strategy is that by involving each student in the teaching and learning process, every individual becomes a truly valuable asset in the classroom.

Would you like to know more?

4 Things You Don’t Know About the Jigsaw Method

Check out the other posts in the Strategy Bites series:

What opportunities do you give students to engage in group learning? Share your ideas!

Jasmine Parent is an M. Sc. graduate from the program of Global and Community Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics at McGill University. She is currently enrolled in the M. Ed. Technology Program at the University of British Columbia and works as an Assistant Online Course Developer at McGill’s Teaching and Learning Services. Her greatest passions include cooking and exploring healthy recipes, practicing yoga, and spending time in nature. 

Featured Image photo credit: Victor Tangerman

Jasmine Parent is an M.Sc. Graduate from the program of Global and Community Nutrition in the Department of Dietetics at McGill. She is currently enrolled in the Masters of Education Technology Program at UBC and she works as an Assistant Online Course Developer at TLS. Her greatest passions include cooking and exploring healthy recipes, practicing yoga and spending time in nature.

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