Kai Hakkarainen

The jigsaw strategy is used to develop the skills and expertise needed to participate effectively in group activities. It focuses on listening, speaking, co-operation, reflection, and problem-solving skills.

Jigsaw method is a very useful tool for trying to help students integrated knowledge and understanding from various sources and experts. The basic idea is very simple: students are divided into groups which all have their own research topic to study. After research each topic group is split in such a manner that new groups have a single member from each of the old topic groups. After the new groups have been assembled each topic expert is resonposible for integrating the knowledge of his/her topic specific knowledge into the understanding of the new group he/she is in.

This is where the name for the method comes from: students are organized like pieces in a jigsaw to form different kind of groups, where each student (piece) must be part of the solution to the jigsaw puzzle.

Jigsaw method is a group work method for learning and participating in the following group learning activities.


Directions for the jigsaw strategy are given below. Information about this strategy is from the Muskingum Area Technical College (Zanesville, Ohio) Newsletter, September 14, 1994.


Jigsaw is a multifunctional structure of cooperative learning. Jigsaw can be used in a variety of ways for a variety of goals, but it is primarily used for the acquisition and presentation of new material, review, or informed debate. The use of this structure creates interdependence and status equalization.

Each student on the team becomes an "expert" on one topic by working with members from other teams assigned the corresponding expert topic. Upon returning to their teams, each one in turn teaches the group; and students are all assessed on all aspects of the topic.

Process for expert group jigsaw

  1. Assign Topics - The learning unit is divided into four topics and each student on the team is assigned one topic. For teams of five, two students are assigned one topic and instructed to work together. For three member teams, only three topics are assigned and the members learn the fourth from another team.
  2. Expert Groups Meet - All Topic 1 students meet in one area, Topic 2 students in another area, Topic 3 students and Topic 4 students. If eight teams exist in the classroom, two groups of each topic may be formed to reduce the size of the expert groups. A balance of achievement levels may have advantages for topic groups.
  3. Experts Consult - Experts consult and discuss their topic, making certain each group member understands the information. A variety of strategies for checking for understanding can be used. For example, work sheets, cross group interviews, dialogue etc.
  4. Experts Create and Practice a Teaching Plan - Expert groups design and practice a plan for teaching their expertise to team members.
  5. Experts Return to Teams to Share and Tutor - Experts take turns sharing their individual topic expertise with team members.
  6. Demonstration of Knowledge - The culminating activity allows individual team members to demonstrate their knowledge of all topics identified in the unit.


Cooperative Learning, Spencer Kagan, Resources for Teachers, Inc., 1992.

The Jigsaw classroom, Elliot Aronson, Official web site for Jigasw Classroom method, website with instructions at: http://www.jigsaw.org