In an earlier posting I (Clive) advocated giving students a lot of “air time” in class, and outlined several techniques for ensuring that all students are heard. I’ve just (re)discovered a further technique – “Jigsaw” – and am using it in my summer courses. I can’t believe I took so long to see its potential!
In Jigsaw the readings for a class are assigned beforehand to different students, and when they go into small groups each has to speak to “their” reading. This reduces the reading load and gives each student a chance to speak to their item. It also decreases the likelihood of one student dominating the small group. Moreover, it takes some pressure off the teacher to expound all the readings themselves.
I used to employ Jigsaw but stopped because it seemed as if I was forcing students to read the articles; also it seemed to require having the same groups for every class, a practice I’ve moved away from.
What I do now is give every student a permanent Jigsaw number – either 1 or 2 – and assign just 2 articles for small group discussion. This means I can form new groups each class. Another advantage is that with more than one student speaking to an article, the pressure on individual students is reduced and the discussion becomes more collaborative.
As with any group work, of course, the topic has to be interesting to the students so they approach the discussion with enthusiasm rather than just going through the motions. So far, it seems to working!