Teaching Assistant Advisory Council – Jigsaw Groups

So, among my other endeavours, I am a member of the Teaching Assistant Advisory Council (TAAC), a body run through Teaching Support Services here at the University of Guelph. I was deeply involved in Grad Day orientation and TA Day presentations, offering an introductory speech before the student body and two presentations on Preparation for Your First Day of Class and Top Tips for TAs.

Top Tips for TAs did not go so well, but the Preparation for Your First Day went quite well. Spent too much time giving theory – not enough tips. Live and learn I guess.

Anyhow, TAAC is creating a newsletter for all TAs to be distributed electronically (Save those trees), which will deal with recent articles on education, offer interviews with experienced teachers/TAs, offer strategies and keep people generally up to date about the whole TA experience here at Guelph.

I am the general editor of the newsletter and I have the pleasure of writing about a strategy for group work called the Jigsaw Method. My article is as follows:

The Jigsaw Method is ideal for students who take responsibility for their own learning to teach each other about various aspects of a given problem or issue. One caveat though: this method is not for the disorganized TA. Divide the class into small groups (3-5 students). Each of these group will become experts on a given problem, a section of the text, or an issue under discussion. For example, the Blue group will work together to answer a certain question posed to them. Then, halfway through the session, each of the groups will split up and form into groups composed of a different expert from every previous group. That is, the Blue group members will all join different groups where they will have to teach the other students what the Blue group has learned about the particular aspect of the problem they were assigned. Ideally, this allows students to cover a great deal of information very quickly, learning from their peers in an interactive environment.

Though this was originally developed for elementary school classrooms by Elliot Aronson in the early 1970s, it has been applied in university settings and the workplace because of its versatile, interactive, interdependent learning model. It empowers students and encourages co-operation all at once.

Of course, what you see above is just a first draft – I’ll have to shorten it, while still making it seem clear and half intelligent. But the basic idea is there. I may ask the graphic designer guy we have to make up a picture to illustrate the idea. The only thing I can find online is somewhat obscure. Nevertheless, I think it makes sense….

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