Better Field Instruction by using Jigsaw Groups

James Sammons
Sammons' INK, Ltd. / University of Rhode Island
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Jigsaw groups places field site students in active, shared responsiblity, collaboration as they infer the concepts previously chosen and supported by their instructor.
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Jigsaw groups is a technique that is easily applied at any instructional level from middle to graduate school.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered:

No required concepts. Required skills include the ability to present your ideas clearly and to work collaboratively. These skills are usually present by middle school.

How the activity is situated in the course:

This technique has been used successfully in many varied settings. It is not limited to a single use catagory.

National or State Education Standards addressed by this activity?:

Any content standards relevant to field site investigations.


Content/concepts goals for this activity:

Any content or concept goals that can be illuminated by field site investigations.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity:

Jigsaw group students will observe, compare, and formulate hypotheses, evaluate competing interpretations of the geology at hand, and synthesize new concepts.

Other skills goals for this activity:

Jigsaw group students will present their knowledge and ideas to their fellow Working Team members. They willcollaborate with them to infer concepts about the geology at hand. Together, the Working Team will present these inferences to the other Teams. The Working Teams will then evaluate all Team inferences.

Description of the activity/assignment

The first step in his technique is to chose a field site and list the concepts that you expect students to gain from their experience. Next, you will make a list of understandings that students will need to know to be able to infer your goal concepts. Then you will divide your class into two to six Expert Groups. Each expert group receives instruction in one of the requisite understandings that will be needed at the field site. This instruction may be done in many ways, but the authors have had excellent success with, and recommend, mini-labs. These short, one-concept labs usually take about fifteen minutes.
Prior to the field site visit, the Expert Groups are dissolved and the class is regrouped as Working teams. Each Working Team includes at least one member from each Expert group. At the field site, you will provide some sense of purpose to the Working Teams. This may take the form of questions that are written or delivered informally on site. After the Working Teams have arrived at their inferences, you will provide a forum for them to exchange their discoveries. This process will expose weak lines of thought and you will have to make few or no corrections.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Any form of evaluation will serve this technique. You will have a clear sense of relative achievement from listening to the Working Teams present their final conclusions.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs is the website of the original Jigsaw Classroom concept. The technique described here is an adaptation of the Jigsaw Classroom.

Controlled Vocabulary Terms

Subject: Geoscience
Resource Type: Pedagogic Resources:Description of Pedagogic Method
Grade Level: Graduate/Professional, General Public, College Upper (15-16), College Lower (13-14), Middle (6-8), High School (9-12)
Ready for Use: Ready to Use
Theme: Teach the Earth:Enhancing your Teaching:Problem Solving, Teach the Earth:Teaching Environments:K12