Jigsaw Teaching Method

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Jigsaw Teaching Method

Jigsaw is an active learning method where the learners contribute to their education and are not force-fed information.


Do you have residents and/or students that are tired of the traditional lecture format? Are you putting people to sleep with your powerpoints? Are you simply tired of giving the same lecture over and over again on a boring topic?  Then maybe you should try using the jigsaw technique to educate. Jigsaw is an active learning method where the learners contribute to their education and are not force-fed information.

How it works
A topic is divided into smaller inter-related topics (puzzle pieces). You assign each member of the group their specific topic (puzzle piece) and have them read on it before your session so that they become really versed in it. On the day of the session, each member teaches their group members about their assigned topic (puzzle piece). Once everyone has given their assigned topics (puzzle pieces), the “puzzle” is now complete.

Not clear yet? Let’s use the example that you have to give a lecture on asthma. Rather than give a boring lecture on asthma, you decide to do a jigsaw on the topic. You assign one member to read about  asthma triggers, one member to focus on the pathophysiology of asthma, and one member to read on treatment of asthma before the session. You can make multiple groups of three in this fashion. On the day of the session, each person shares what they learned with the others so that at the end, everyone knows about asthma triggers, pathophysiology, and treatment. The puzzle is complete!

Benefits and Downsides
The pros to doing a jigsaw are that it is a less threatening teaching method for some students compared to being called on while seated amongst their peers. The jigsaw method also decreases the teacher’s dominance in teaching and allows the learners to teach themselves. It also encourages participation since everyone has to contribute so this can help with your quiet/shy learners. A big downside is that all your learners must come prepared prior to the session for this to work. 

Just like square dancing, you should try the jigsaw teaching method at least one to see if it suits you. It’s a great way to do some active learning and will make a boring lecture interactive.

Sundip Patel MD
Clerkship Director
Cooper Medical School of Rowan University
Camden, New Jersey