Putting it all Together: Using the Jigsaw Method with Instructional Technology

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If you have ever attended PD at Grant Wood AEA chances are you have been exposed to the obligatory Jigsaw Method for processing learning. Although this is said with a hint of sarcasm, the Jigsaw Method ranks as a 1.2 high effect size instructional strategy.  Originally the Jigsaw Method was implemented in Austin, Texas as a way to diffuse racial tensions in a recently desegregated school. In order to get the students to work together and learn from one another’s diverse perspectives, researchers devised a method that focused on cooperative learning. The history of the Jigsaw Method is quite fascinating and can be read about here.

What is the Jigsaw Method?

The Jigsaw Method includes a few steps:
1.) Divide students into groups of 5 or 6 that include diverse representations. Appoint a group leader and, as a group, segment the learning into equal chunks (teacher should provide guidance in how to segment), each individual taking one chunk.
2.) Provide enough time for students to read and reread their material and become familiar with the content. Then, the students that have read the same chunks gather together to become experts, discussing main points and preparing a presentation to share with the original group.
3.) Students return to their original group to share the presentation that has been prepared, answering any clarifying questions. During this time, the teacher moves from group to group making observations and providing support where needed.
4.) Finally, students should be formatively assessed to check for understanding and to guide future instruction.

Google for the Win!

We have to admit, it’s Google for the win when it comes to the Jigsaw Method! Google Slides provides an excellent opportunity for student collaboration while working within expert and ‘home’ groups. As a teacher, create a collaborative slide deck for the whole class (Alice Keeler example here), with each group assigned one slide in the deck. Allow expert groups to collaboratively add notes, main ideas, talking points, or even images. When students return to home groups, each student, not just the expert, will be able to access the notes digitally. Pro tip: View all the Slides at once by clicking on ‘Grid View’ in the View Menu.

This same idea is possible within Google Docs, as well. Creating a table in Google Docs allows for the same collaborative power, just with a different feel. As a teacher, create a template for your students. Each home group should have one template. Use ‘Force Make a Copy’ with the group leader. The group leader will share the template with the rest of the group. Pro tip: Thirty kids in one doc is usually frustrating! This idea works best in smaller groups.


One concern that we have when looking at the Jigsaw Method is that it places a high level of independent learning on students who might need support in order to fully participate in the learning. We recommended supporting learning objects (texts) be digital in nature and accessible to a screen reader so students who need the decoding support of a screen reader will be able to fully participate. Additionally, we feel that allowing students to record the summary of the learning from the expert group with something like Screencastify or another recording tool might help ease the anxiety of students who are quieter and don’t like to share even in the smaller group.

Key Takeaways

  1. The Jigsaw Method has a rich history of enhancing cooperative learning in diverse learning environments.
  2. Students are responsible for becoming experts in the room and sharing their learning with one another.
  3. Digital tools enhance the collaborative nature of the Jigsaw method, as well as providing accessibility supports to all learners.