The Jigsaw Method: Putting Pieces Together

Written by Angie Portacio
August 7, 2019 • 2 minute read

Jigsaw Puzzle


Most students dread doing group work in many classes because they either find it difficult to collaborate with their peers that choose not to participate or are not comfortable speaking in front of people. But working in groups is considered an important skill that students should acquire before they graduate from college to be marketable in almost every career field.

The jigsaw method is a small group activity that promotes student-centered learning and encourages students to take a deeper understanding of concepts and course content so they can teach their peers.

The jigsaw method is a cooperative learning strategy that provides students an opportunity to actively help each other build comprehension.


  • Jigsaw is a method for encouraging group sharing and learning of specific content. This technique can be used as an instructional activity across several days and is best to use when there is a large amount of content to teach.
  • Jigsaw helps students learn cooperation as group members share responsibility for each other's learning by using critical thinking and social skills to complete an assignment. Subsequently, this strategy helps to improve listening, communication, and problem-solving skills.
  • Monitor each student's participation within groups to get information about how much the students already know about the topic. This allows teachers to tailor instruction accordingly.

Prior to applying this method in your class, you must spend some time choosing a topic that can be divided into numerous sub-topics for students to become subject matter experts in their small groups. Remember, this activity can span into several class sessions.

Once you determined the topic and subtopics then do the following in class:

  1. Organize students into a group of 4-6 people.
  2. Divide the day’s reading or lesson into 4-6 parts, and assign one student in each group to be responsible for a different segment.
  3. Give students time to learn and process their assigned segment independently.
  4. Put students who completed the same segment together into an “Expert group” to talk about and process the details of their segment.
  5. Have students return to their original “Jigsaw” groups and take turns sharing the segments they’ve become experts on.
  6. Have students complete a task or a quiz that’s reliant on them having understood the material from the contributions of all their group members.

(Source: What is the Jigsaw Method?)

Dr. Sarah Capitelli, a professor of Teacher Education in the School of Education, implemented the “Jigsaw method” in her Fluency and Comprehension for Linguistic Diverse Learners hybrid course. To support blended teaching modalities, Sarah used a combination of Zoom video conference and in class activities.

Are you or someone you know finding success with teaching with the jigsaw method? If so, we'd love to hear from you! Email

The University of San Francisco provides access to the Canvas learning management system and Zoom videoconferencing software for students, faculty, and staff. The links below provide suggestions on how to incorporate the jigsaw method into your hybrid and online teaching.

Not sure where to start? We are here to help! To learn how to implement the jigsaw method effectively in your course, contact Instructional Design to request a consultation.

Contact Instructional Technology & Training to schedule a training session and access self-guided training materials.



Request Instructional Design Workshops
USF's Instructional Designers offer a two-hour in-person workshop on active learning pedagogies. Create and integrate activities in your course to help with student understanding and interaction, with and without technology.

For more information, email the Instructional Design team.