Learning-to-Learn: Bring Jigsaw into Academic Life

Teacher and students b/wJigsaw learning is considered as one of the most effective learning techniques in today’s university classrooms. Students report to have deeper understanding of various topics through information exchange in Jigsaw learning. In a Jigsaw learning activity, students are divided into groups at the very beginning. Then, the students will be asked to leave their original groups and join topic groups. Within topic groups, the students create discussion on different subtopics of a certain topic. At the end of the activity, the students return to their original groups and pass each other their discussion of subtopics. Through learning from peers, the students in the groups will be able to form comprehensive understanding of the certain topic.

As a graduate student studying Second Language teaching, I am quite familiar with Jigsaw task in language classes. According to Pica, Kanagy and Falodun (1993), Jigsaw task was more likely to generate opportunities for students to use target languages than traditional language learning methods. When I worked as a language teacher in an adult English as Second Language class, I once developed a Jigsaw reading activity based on an story-telling article. Through my classroom observation, I have noticed that many students who used to be shy became more talkative in Jigsaw group discussion. Therefore, I firmly believe that Jigsaw task contributes to a more communicative rather than an instructor-orientated class.

In fact, Jigsaw learning is not limited to second language learning. Many studies suggest that Jigsaw learning are effective learning method in various disciplines. In 2010, Doymus, Karacop and Simsek concluded that Jigsaw cooperative learning has positive effect on students’ conceptual understanding of electrochemistry after tracing first-year undergraduate students’ grades in general chemistry course. Similar conclusions is drawn by Slish (2005) after he compared student performance in biology tests based on whether they are in Jigsaw learning group or passive learning group. In addition to facilitating students’ conceptual understanding, Jigsaw learning helps establish a supportive learning environment which brings students positive learning experience. Further, such positive learning experience also intensifies students’ learning motivation. In his study (2007), Gomleksiz examines the effect of Jigsaw learning in Turkish engineering students’ English language class. The attitude scale of students in Jigsaw study group indicated that the cooperative learning experience had motivated engineering students in English learning .

Due to the positive effect of Jigsaw learning on students’ performance, StudyTree considers Jigsaw Study Group as an important support in our academic support system. In order to prepare at-risk students for exams, StudyTree groups students based on their self-evaluation. Within Jigsaw Study Group, each student prepares topics they are strong at and lead group discussions on these topics. By allowing students to play both roles of tutors and learners, StudyTree not only motivate students in academic learning but also help building a student-centered learning community.


Doymus, K., Karacop, A., & Simsek, U. (2010). Effects of jigsaw and animation techniques on students’ understanding of concepts and subjects in electrochemistry. Educational Technology Research and Development, 58(6), 671-691.

Gomleksiz, N. (2007). Effectiveness of cooperative learning (jigsaw II) method in teaching English as a foreign language to engineering students (Case of Firat University, Turkey). European journal of engineering education, 32(5), 613-625.

Pica, T., Kanagy, R., & Falodun, J. (1993). Choosing and using communication tasks for second language instruction and research. In G. Crookes, & S. M. Gass (Eds.), Tasks and Language Learning: Integrating Theory and Practice (pp. 3-34). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

Slish, D. F. (2005). Assessment of the Use of the Jigsaw Method and Active Learning in Non-Majors, Introductory Biology. Bioscene: Journal of College Biology Teaching, 31(4), 4-10.

By: Xueye Yan