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Thanks for posting the question for me! I was introduced to this technique by a high school teacher taking one of my teacher training courses, and it immediately struck me as something I could use for comparative analytical assignments.

For example, I teach an upper-level undergraduate, topic-based social science survey of East Asia (China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan). Suppose I have a reading or research assignment on family structures, and want to have a day that covers all three countries. I can choose specific aspects of family structures (let's say, marriage practices, inheritance, descent, and gender relations) and set up groups for each aspect that contain students assigned to each country. They compare their specific topic across cultural boundaries, then I break them up and put all the Japan folks together, all the Korea folks together, all the China folks together, and all the Taiwan folks together. They then put together a vision of family structures for their country that is now informed by comparison with the other countries. Or they could start country by country and then split up to compare aspects. Either way, they finish by reporting their findings to the class.

To my mind, this could form a hybrid activity, similar to the directed group activity such as often found in undergraduate classes, but also similar to the freer division of reading common to graduate seminars. The more specific the goals and the more rigid the time limits for each stage, the more closely I can direct the class activity without simply standing there telling them what to think.


Delaney Kirk

That sounds like a great way to get the students to take responsibility for their learning! I may look at some way of using jigsaw assignments in my classes.

I've also decided I'm going to try using a "Wikipedia" approach (I'll call it Kirkpedia!). The students are doing readings on motivation theories. I'm going to put them in teams and have them diagram how expectancy theory works (first by identifying the concepts of expectancy, valence, internal and external outcomes, abilities, effort, organizational outcomes, etc). Then the first team puts their diagram on the board and the other teams take turns tweaking it/giving examples of how it would work in the workplace. I think my idea needs some more fleshing out...any suggestions?


"Kirkpedia" and not "Wikilaney?"

The only potential problem that comes to mind is that, unless you have a printing whiteboard or lots of wall space, the class will lose the history of the process as they create their group definition. That may not matter for your lesson, particularly, but it could make it harder for you to evaluate the Kirkpedia method itself.

This might be a good occasion to use the dreaded flipchart. In fact, if you give each group a flipchart that they use for their presentation and the class then uses for their critique, you can use the blackboard to record the synthetic result--and then make each group do a self-evaluation based on their flipchart.

Maybe that's too complicated?

Delaney Kirk

I tried this method today in order to review the material from last week. I put three teams of 4 students each at the board (we have white boards that cover the entire front wall). I put a topic on the board for each team and told them to write down everything they remembered about that topic. Then I had the teams switch topics and add to/delete using different color marker and finally did that a third time. At the end, each team presented/explained to the class what was on the board. Intersting way to review material. I like your flipchart idea too...


Neat! I like that for review, especially--it makes the review process into a learning opportunity.

I have to check out my rooms to see how much board space I have. (Our semester doesn't start until next week). I might try that for a wikipedia assignment--I have the students look up certain controversial topics and read through the talk pages to get a sense of the issues involving those topics.

I'll let you know how that goes.


Regarding "jigsaw," in the past 10 years I have used the strategy often with secondary social studies students and with collegiate-level history and teaching methods courses. In my experience, the strategy works best when: 1) the topic is controversial or debatable; 2) the topic can be broken into sections for comparison and contrast; 3) when the instructor gives students a focus question or two for small group discussion; and, 4) when the two rounds of small group discussion are followed-up by a teacher-led debriefing, then summarizing presentation.

A collegiate example:

In a US history survey course, I frequently assigned sets of primary source excerpts as homework (along with textbook reading). The primary sources centered upon a common event/process, but offered different points of view. In class, groups of students would be assigned to one source (to ensure basic comprehension) for 5 minutes. Groups would then re-arrange to be composed of students representing different sources for comparison and contrast for 10 minutes. I would then debrief by creating a chart of similarities and differences on the board and jotting down notes as students contributed to class discussion. The process, typically, took about 25-30 minutes.

Dr. Delaney Kirk

Thanks Glenn. This technique gets the students doing their assignments outside of class and taking responsibility for their own learning. It also cuts down on class time spent in lecturing on basics. I hope to use it in my classes this semester!

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