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Boosting Student Belonging With the Jigsaw Technique

This classic group learning strategy can help students communicate, collaborate, and empathize with one another—fighting back against a growing sense of disconnection in schools.

December 13, 2023

The “jigsaw classroom” is a cooperative learning approach originally designed by psychologist Elliot Aronson to build up empathy in recently desegregated classrooms. In the jigsaw system, each student receives one small part of a bigger lesson—then, in small groups, students have to pool their knowledge together and teach each other what they learned. “Aronson compared it to gift-giving,” says social psychologist Geoffrey Cohen. “When I give a gift, I feel a sense of attachment to the person I’m giving it to—and vice versa.”

Cohen walks us through the classic jigsaw research from the 1970s and lays out how the strategy can help the modern-day teacher looking to boost empathy, collaboration, and a sense of belonging in their classroom. To learn more from Daniel Leonard’s interview with Cohen for Edutopia, read “The Science of Belonging and Connection.”

To read the original research, along with several newer studies on the approach, check out the links below:

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