Instructional Strategy Implementation #2: Cooperative Learning (Jigsaw)

Cooperative Learning- Jigsaw

Despite being one of the most theoretically grounded (Dean, Hubbell, Pitler & Stone, 2012) and widely used (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007) instructional strategies, cooperative learning is susceptible to misuse and overuse, potentially undermining the potential benefits of this highly effective instructional strategy. According to Dean et al., (2012) there seems to be two absolutely essential elements of cooperative learning: positive interdependence (all in it together, one’s success is not at the expense of an other’s, and equal distribution and sharing of the workload) and individual accountability (individuals receive feedback on their efforts, formative or summative assessment, demonstrate proficiency of knowledge and skills). Cooperative learning such as Jigsaw’s promote empathy while enhancing self-esteem and self-efficacy, deemphasizes competition, and helps students to appreciate each other’s strengths. Cooperative learning strategies such as Jigsaw provide opportunities for students to engage in both social and cognitive goals. Jigsaw’s fit into the philosophy of curriculum and instruction through the social reconstructionist perspective to relieve racial tensions and reconstruct society and  cognitive processing through the facilitation of content discovery and focus on specific critical thinking skills.

Key Research Findings

  • Cooperative learning is a highly effective instructional strategy with an average effective size of .44 (Dean et al., 2012).
  • Few other instructional strategies are as theoretically grounded as cooperative learning (Dean et al., 2012, p. 35; Dell’Olio & Donk, 2008)
  • Cooperative learning deemphasized competition, helps students appreciate other’s strengths, develop empathy, and enhance self-esteem and self-efficacy (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2007).
  • Five elements of cooperative learning according to Dean et. al., 2012:
    • Positive Interdependence– helps to create a scenario where all students need to cooperate in order for the group to be successful
    • Face-to-Face Promotive Interaction
    • Individual and Group Accountability
    • Interpersonal and Small-Group Skills
    • Group Processing
    • Teachers must support the learning process through teaching the steps, defining the norms and opportunity to practice (Tomlinson, 2004 as cited in Dean et al., 2012).
    • “Studies of methods that provide neither group goals nor individual accountability find few achievement benefits for this approach” (Slavin, 1988).
    • “Sapon-Shevin found out that cooperative learning was a successful teaching strategy at all levels from pre-school to post secondary” (Sedat, 2011) 


While Jigsaw has distinct stages, these stages can be aapted to address specific student needs or dmenads of the curriculum” (Dell’Olio & Donk, 2008, p. 255)

  1. Preparation- teacher creates materials, compose groups, introduce the technique, and topic to be studied; .
  2. Expert Group- students are learning and reviewing new material and decide how to teach content.
  3. Home Group- students share or teach material.
  4. Debriefing- students participate in the discussion.
  5. Group Processing- brainstorm improvements and set goals
  6. Individual Accountability- prepare for formative and summative assessment

Additional Resources

1) This is a downloadable PDF that provides a metanalysis overview of the size of the strength of the empirical support for a variety of cooperative learning methods:

Johnson, David, W., Johnson, Roger T., & Stanne, Mary Beth. 2000. Cooperative Learning Methods: A Meta-Analysis

2) The Jigsaw Method for Busy Teachers parts I & II found on Youtube. Not an actual video of Jigsaw happening in practice, but a step-by-step of the instructional strategy made my Wells University.

part 1:

part 2:

3) This is from the website Reading rockets which identifies itself as “a national multimedia literacy initiative offering information and resources on how young kids learn to read, why so many struggle, and how caring adults can help”. Excellent information on the how’s and why’s of utilizing Jigsaw with an embedded video demonstrating this technique. Additional links are; differentiation tips, books to use with the strategy, and links to research.


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