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The jigsaw teaching method was invented by a social psychologist named Elliot Aronson in 1971. It followed his work with the Jigsaw Classroom Study. It was originally designed to break down stereotypes and prejudice among classmates. Contemporary research illustrates examples that help to see how you can break down a subject into parts for a jigsaw project. Advantages and disadvantages of this technique can be seen over time. The social context of what brought about the need for this jigsaw method helps us to see that simple ideas can have great effects. Research summaries give you a base of understanding on how the jigsaw method can be graded to see if it helps to solve problems it was meant to solve.[1] [2] [3]

Original Jigsaw ImplementationEdit

Elliot Aronson developed and applied the jigsaw technique to promote the concept of cooperative learning. The technique employs groups to work on small problems to be collaborated into a final product. The name comes from each person creating a piece of the puzzle to make a jigsaw of understanding about a topic. Each student is an important part of the puzzle that completes the final jigsaw product. An overall, in-class assignment topic is given and the classroom is split into diverse groups of three to six members. Each student is assigned an aspect of the topic within each of the groups. The students create their reports about their topics to present to the group. Students then are instructed to make a group of only their specific topic. This allows each student to collaborate and finalize their report topic. The original groups will reconvene and hear presentations by each group member over their respective aspects to learn about the assigned topic. A test is given at the end of the final product presentations to evaluate how much was learned about the topic. The test over the assigned topic is very helpful in creating collaborative and cooperative learning among students and groups. [1]

History of Jigsaw Edit

In the late 1950’s America was going through some drastic changes. Civil rights were being addressed and society was changing for the better. A huge part of the civil rights movement was the desegregation of public schools. In 1954 a huge advancement was made through Brown vs. Board of Education. This decision opened a doorway for the advancement of African-Americans and others into the school system. By ruling that separating schools made them inherently unequal, the courts made the first step into integrating schools. This process would be long and strenuous road for everyone involved.

Schools were plagued with school fights, discrimination, and hate crimes. White supremacist groups and hateful, white students terrorized new students. This prevented all students from feeling safe in their schools and harmed all students learning abilities. Students could not even sit in the same room together, much less work together. This created a huge problem for teachers, students, parents, and the community. Students were attending classes, but were not learning anything except hatred for those different than them. This was a problem for the entire country because there was an entire generation of students that were not learning and were being filled with hate and discriminatory thoughts and actions.

It was at this time that psychologists were pulled in to advise schools on what to do to correct this problem. In 1971, Dr. Elliot Aronson was hired to advise an Austin, Texas school district on how to defuse the problems of hostile classrooms and distrust between the students. Aronson was a psychologist at the University of Texas at the time, and took a psychological approach to help fix the problems in the classrooms Competition between students had become extremely high. It was quickly realized that the competitive nature of the classroom encouraged students to taunt each other and discriminate against those different than them, so that they might vault themselves higher in status. In order to counter this problem, students were placed in diversified groups so that they would be required to work together and reduce the competitive atmosphere. Students were having difficulty adjusting to the mixing of ethnicity in the classroom. Aronson created an atmosphere for increased collaboration and reduction of the resistance to work with one another. Aronson created assignments that made every member of the group equally important. The students had to pay attention and obtain much information from other group members. This allows for each member of the group to add a small piece of the larger picture so that they are all important to the group. This teaches the students to rely on each other and reduces their competitive attitudes toward each other because they need everyone in their group to do well because their grade depends on the other students. [1]

Overview of Classic Research FindingsEdit

When compared to students in the traditional classroom students in jigsaw classrooms showed a decrease in prejudice and stereotyping, an increase in liking of their group mates both in-group and out-group members, higher levels of self-esteem, they performed better on standardized exams, had a greater liking of school, showed lower levels of absenteeism, and showed true integration in areas other than the classroom.


One by-product of using the jigsaw classroom technique is a sharpening of children’s empathy. Diane Bridgeman demonstrated that children in the jigsaw classroom were better able to put themselves in others' shoe as compared to children in a traditional classroom. To do this she conducted an experiment with 10-year old children.


Prior to the research half of the children had spent two months in a jigsaw classroom while the other half were in a traditional classroom. The children were shown a series of cartoons with the aim of testing their ability to empathize. In one cartoon a boy is shown at the airport looking sad as he waves good-bye to his father. In the next frame of the cartoon a postman is delivering a package to the boy. In the third frame the boy opens the package containing a toy airplane and then he bursts into tears. The children were then questioned as to why they believed the boy was crying.


A majority of the children answered that the boy was crying because he missed his dad and the toy plane reminded him of that. The differences were seen when asked what the postman was thinking when the boy opened the package and started to cry. Children in the traditional classroom thought that the postman knew the boy was sad because his dad was gone and it reminded him that his dad was gone. The children made the error of assuming that others felt what they did. Children in the jigsaw classroom took the perspective of the postman and realized that he was confused as to why the boy was crying after receiving a present.


Geffner, in his dissertation for his Ph.D., investigated the attitudes 5th graders had about themselves, school, and other students. He worked in the Santa Cruz County, California, school district which had a ratio of 50% Caucasian students to 50% Hispanic students.


He looked at classes that were taught in the traditional manner, those that used the jigsaw technique, and those that used a cooperative technique that did not rely on interdependence. He used a modified version of the questionnaire used by Blaney et al. (1977) and a modified version of the Pictorial Concept Scale for Children. This modified self-concept scale uses cartoon stick figures in various situations, including five dimensions of self-esteem: athletic abilities, scholastic abilities, physical appearance, family interactions, and social interactions. These measures were used as pre-intervention and post-intervention measures. Interventions lasted 8 weeks.


Students in the cooperative and jigsaw classes improved or maintained their positive attitudes about themselves, school, peers, and academic abilities. Students in the traditional classroom demonstrated a decline in their attitudes about peers, themselves, and academic abilities. Those in the interdependent or jigsaw technique improved or maintained levels of self-esteem.

Blaney, Stephan, Rosenfield, Aonson, & SikesEdit

The first experiment done with the jigsaw classroom was by Blaney, Stephan, Rosenfield, Aronson, and Sikes in 1977. The jigsaw technique was first introduced in ten fifth grade classes across seven different elementary schools.


There were three fifth grade classes from the same schools acting as a control. The teachers in the control classes using the traditional methods were rated as good teachers by their peers. The experimental classes worked in jigsaw groups for 45 minutes a day, three days a week, for six weeks. The curriculum between the control and experimental groups were similar. The jigsaw groups were balanced so that the groups contained members from all groups. Questionnaires were designed to assess student’s attitudes about themselves, their attitude toward school, and their attitude toward peer teaching and cooperation in the classroom. A sociometric instrument was used in order to assess students’ liking of group members and their liking of other students in the class. These measures were used as a baseline measure and a post-intervention.


For self-esteem, there was significant increase seen in levels of self-esteem and a decrease in the traditional classroom. Caucasians in the jigsaw classroom increased their liking of school while those in the control class saw a decrease in their liking of school. A slight decrease was seen in the African-Americans students’ liking of school in the jigsaw classes, but there was a significant decrease in liking of school for African American students in the traditional classrooms. Mexican-American students in the jigsaw classroom indicated that there was a slight increase in their liking of school, but students in the traditional classroom a significant increase in liking of school. The authors contribute this to the fact that Mexican-American students in the jigsaw classroom may have felt forced to participate in peer teaching. Two other questions produced significant results between the jigsaw classroom and the traditional classroom. A decrease was seen in competitiveness for students in the jigsaw classroom while there was an increase for students in the traditional classroom. An increase was also seen in the feeling they could learn from other students for students in the jigsaw classroom while there was a decrease for this for students in the traditional classroom. There were also significant findings in the sociometric instrument. Students reported increase liking of their group members, but they also increased their liking of other students in the class.[1]

Overview of Contemporary Research FindingsEdit

Hänze and BergerEdit


Hänze and Berger compared use of the jigsaw classroom technique with traditional direct instruction in a 12th-grade physics class in 2007. They took eight 12th-grade classes and randomly assigned them to either the jigsaw technique or direct instruction. Students were given a test of academic performance and a questionnaire looking at personality variables (goal orientation, self-concept, and uncertainty orientation). The topics (motion of electrons and electromagnetic oscillations and waves) were introduced through direct instruction in both conditions. Students were then given the learning experience questionnaire as a pretest measures. In the second part of the lesson the experimental group worked in the jigsaw classroom and those in the control group continued to work in traditional direct instruction. Individuals in the jigsaw class were given the learning experience questionnaire after working in the expert group and when the finished working in the jigsaw group. In the traditional classroom group, they were given the learning experience questionnaire at the end of the lesson. A post-test of academic performance was given a few days after the learning unit. The independent variable was the method of instruction (jigsaw vs. direct) and the study topic (scanning electron microscope vs. functioning of the microwave). The dependent variables were the personality questionnaire, learning experience questionnaire, and academic performance.


When comparing traditional instruction and the jigsaw classroom, there were clear difference in the learning experience, but there were no difference in academic performances as measured by a test of physics knowledge. Students in the jigsaw classroom did show higher achievement scores in areas that they had been assigned the expert for, but students in the traditional classroom scored better on areas that individuals in the jigsaw class had been taught by others in their group. The jigsaw classroom students had a more favorable view of the learning experience than those in the traditional instruction condition. Students in the jigsaw classroom reported stronger intrinsic motivation, greater interest in the topic, and more cognitive activation and involvement. Students were more involved and more interested in the material when in the cooperative learning setting of the jigsaw classroom. Students in the jigsaw classroom were seen are more competent, more socially related to other students, and more autonomous. There was an indirect effect on performance because students viewed themselves as more competent, but no direct impact on actual achievement.[4]

Perkins and SarisEdit


Perkins and Saris demonstrated the use of the jigsaw classroom technique in an undergraduate statistics course in 2001. They noted that a part of class instruction was doing worksheets as part of an instruction. Worksheets are effective because they give immediate feedback on applying statistical ideas to sample, allow for repeated practice, make students active over passive learners, and they can ask for help from the instructor as needed. The problem with worksheets though. One is uneven ability or readiness to complete the worksheet. One student may not have any problems while another becomes frustrated by the process. Another issue is that in statistics the worksheets require a lot of time to complete because of the many separate steps. In order to overcome these problems and still benefit students, the authors adapted Aronson’s jigsaw classroom to fit undergraduate students. Students worked in groups on two separate occasions. In the first, there were four sheets given out. Pairs of students were given the same worksheet and worked together to compute sample size, the sum of the raw scores, the sum of the squared raw scores, and the sum of squares for one of the four groups. Each of the handouts included a blank ANOVA table with formulas and instructions on how to complete it collaboratively with three other students. The other set of worksheets was on a two-way, chi-square test of independence for three different studies. For the first study there was an example of the computation and interpretation of chi-square. After a discussion of the first example, students received one of two worksheets that directed them through the steps for completing the chi-square procedures for one of the remaining designs with partial solution for each step. The handout also contained the next-to-last step for the other remaining design. It was designed that one group of students received step-by-step instruction and partial solutions for the second and a nearly complete solution for the third design and the other group received step-by-step information for the third design and the almost complete solution for the second design. Students were instructed to seek out a classmate with a complementary handout. Students were then asked to rate the benefits of the exercise using a five-point Likert rating, the exercise as 1 being not at all useful and 5 being very useful. They were asked to rate the exercise on usefulness of getting help, giving help, working with classmates, providing an alternative to a lecture, saving time, and understanding the statistical procedures.


Students perceived the jigsaw procedure as being very positive especially as an alternative learning experience. Students saw using the jigsaw technique as more useful for practical purposes then for interpersonal purposes such as working with others, giving help, or getting help. Students appreciated the technique as a time-saver and viewed it is a change of pace from lectures.[5]

Walker and CroganEdit


Walker and Crogan, in 1988, looked at the effects of a cooperative learning environment and a Jigsaw classroom on academic performance, self-esteem, liking of school, liking of peers, and racial prejudice. They looked at 103 students in grades 4–6 at two separate schools. Cooperative learning was used as a baseline measure for the effects of cooperation. It was compared to the effects of the Jigsaw method that involved cooperation and interdependence. The first school examined was a private school. The school was fairly distant so consultation occurred over the phone. It was determined that the program would be implemented in the sixth-grade class and the fifth-grade class would serve as a control. There were some issues at the private school including changes in the procedure done by the sixth grade classroom and the fifth grade teacher leaving subsequent restructuring of the school which led to termination of the project after four weeks at the private school. Walker and Crogan decided to let this class represent traditional cooperation, thereby being able to contrast it with a Jigsaw class at a second school. The choice to designate the class as traditional cooperation rather than failed Jigsaw has later been criticized (Bratt, 2008). The second school was a public school. In the public school, a fourth-grade class served as the experimental class and an authentic, complete, intensive, three-week Jigsaw program was implemented. The control class was a split fourth/fifth-grade class. At the end of the study, there was data from four classes across two schools. At the private school, there was a cooperative learning program in one class with another class serving as a control group. The public school there was a genuine Jigsaw program in one class and another class serving as a control. Henceforth, there were two programs one at each school and each had a same-school control. For the private school, there were 31 students in the experimental group and 29 students in the control group. At the public school, there were 20 students and two teachers in the experimental group, there were 23 students and only one teacher in the control group. Teachers were given and description of the Jigsaw program and the key facts were discussed with them. In the experimental classes, students were divided into Jigsaw groups by their teacher in a way that ethnicity, academic ability and sex were distributed evenly within and across group. Groups did not include best friends or worse enemies. Prior to implementation, students in the experimental classes familiarized themselves with their group peers, practiced their roles as peer tutors, and practiced relevant skills like discussing main ideas, reading for meaning, listening, and quizzing peers on important information. At the private school, students in the experimental class received the cooperative learning program for 90 minutes each day, twice a week, for four weeks. At the public school, students in the experimental class received the Jigsaw program for an hour a day, five days a week, for three weeks. The jigsaw technique was implemented following standard protocol. Measures were taken pre and post intervention. Academic performance data was available only from the public school and not the private school although it had been promised from both. Students were given the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-concept Scale (CSCS) in order to measure self-esteem. Sociometric class survey data was taken by asking students to rate their classmates according to how much they would like to work them and play with them. Racial prejudice measures were also taken in order to assess students’ attitudes to Asians, Aborigines, and European-Australians. There was a measure of social distance and one of stereotypes.


There was an improvement seen in academic performance for those in the Jigsaw group. This is interesting because some research has implied that the Jigsaw technique may not be appropriate for learning needs as English as a second language students. There were increase in self-esteem in the experimental groups at both schools as compared to the control groups, but the gains were not significant. This may have to do with a ceiling effect. Significant results were not seen for liking of school. Students in the Jigsaw group increased their ratings in working with peers when compared to their relative control group. When looking at individuals in the cooperative learning group, they were not motivated at the prospect of working cooperatively. There were not significant differences seen in playing with peers ratings in either experimental group. < For the Jigsaw students there was an increase in work with ratings of the ethnic groups indicating that Jigsaw technique enhanced liking of ingroup and outgroup peers in work-orientated relationships. This was not seen for the cooperative learning students. Social distance ratings for Asian and European-Australian children decreased across the program, but European-Australian children ratings increase. In the Jigsaw group there was a decrease in negative traits attributed to Asians and European-Australians. For the private school, there was an increase in stereotyping for the cooperative learning experimental group. The study demonstrated that the Jigsaw method is effective in Australian social conditions in producing positive change in academic performance, attitudes to peers, and prejudice. Cooperative learning on the other hand produced generally negative results. Interdependence seemed to be more important than cooperation.[6]

Bratt (“No effect on intergroup relations evident”)Edit


Bratt presented two studies on Jigsaw, one with children in grade 6 (Study 1), one with adolescents in grades 8 to 10 (Study 2), both using pre- and post-measurements. Bratt focused on the claimed effectiveness of Jigsaw to reduce prejudice, assuming that his research would support Jigsaw. The first study gave similar findings as Walker and Crogan’s study, but contrary to Walker and Crogan, Bratt stressed that data could not be interpreted as giving support to positive effects by the Jigsaw classroom. Bratt’s Study 1 included two schools, with one Jigsaw class and one control class at each school. The Jigsaw technique was used over seven weeks, the analysis focused on ethnic Norwegian children (n = 34 in Jigsaw classes, n = 34 in control classes). [7]


Only at one school did the Jigsaw class show a different development than its control class, with more favorable developments in outgroup attitudes. However, the Jigsaw class at this school had two teachers whereas the control class had only one teacher (similar to Walker and Crogan’s Jigsaw study). Bratt pointed out that different number of teachers in the Jigsaw class and its control class made any conclusion about effects from Jigsaw impossible. Study 2 increased the number of participating school classes to 11 Jigsaw classes and 11 matched control classes. Jigsaw teachers were well trained and repeatedly had meetings during the eight weeks of using the Jigsaw technique. The analysis focused on the 264 ethnic Norwegian students in the 22 classes. Study 2 failed to indicate effects of Jigsaw on investigated variables: intergroup attitudes, cross-group friendship, common ingroup identity, empathy, and attitudes toward school. These variables were measured before using Jigsaw, right after the eight weeks of Jigsaw use and finally six months after the first measure. Bratt concluded that his two studies were not able to support his initial optimism on behalf of Jigsaw. Bratt also pointed out methodological limitations in previous studies on Jigsaw.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified Lestik, M., & Plous, S. (2012). Retrieved October 24, 2012, from
  2. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified Aronson, E. (n.d.) Retrieved December 5, 2012, from
  3. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified Perkins, D. V., & Tagler, M. J. (n.d.) Retrieved December 5, 2012
  4. Template:Cite Journal Learning and Instruction, 17, 29-41
  5. Error on call to template:cite web: Parameters url and title must be specified Perkins, D. V., & Saris, R. N. (2001). Teaching of Psychology, 28, 111-113, Retrieved December 5, 2012, from
  6. Template:Cite article Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 8, 381-393
  7. Bratt, C. (2008). The jigsaw classroom under test: No effect on intergroup relations present. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology, 18, 403-419
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