Reciprocal Teaching: Jigsaw

Here’s a closer look at one I’ve used in class.


In a jigsaw activity, students divide into groups to become experts in a particular topic. Then new groups are formed, and each of the new groups contains at least one person from each of the old groups. Once in the new groups, each student teaches the others about what they became an expert in.

This could be a useful way for students to learn the basics of the different kinds of animals available as pets. The first groups could study one of the major pet types: fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, small mammals, dogs, and cats. That would result in seven members of the second group, which is the upper limit for the ideal range for a group size (Team-Based Learning Collaborative, 2011).


When studying ecosystems in science, I divided my class up into groups, giving each group an ecosystem and a set of questions they needed to be ready to answer. The groups studied the ecosystem and discussed it. Ideally, everyone would have become an expert and then taught the other groups about their topic. As often happens, some groups and some students were more diligent than others.

To assess how well the teaching occurred one year, I took the questions given to each group and asked a random member of the class to provide an answer. Those who had been in the expert group for that ecosystem could not answer their own group’s questions. That showed me where there were still weaknesses, and I made sure to cover those concepts in more detail.

In another year, the class built a chart to compare the different ecosystems. This allowed the class to see the bigger picture of how small changes can have big effects.

References for Reciprocal Teaching

Barkley, E. F., Cross, K. P., & Major, C. H. (2005). Collaborative learning techniques. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Lane, D. R. (2008). Teaching skills for facilitating team-based learning. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2008(116), 55–68.

Palsolé, S., & Awalt, C. (2008). Team-based learning in asynchronous online settings. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2008(116), 87–95.

Team-Based Learning Collaborative. (2011). Team formation for TBL [Video file]. Retrieved from


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