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Education for Sustainability Ministry of Education

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Jigsaw – a cooperative learning strategy

An activity to get students working together and developing personal responsibility.

Context(s): endangered animals

Concept(s): biodiversity, sustainability

Learning area(s): English, science

Level(s): 3

Estimated timeframe: 3-4 lessons


The Learning Context

Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that enables each student of a “home” group to focus on one area, idea or ‘piece of the puzzle’. Students become ‘experts’ in their assigned area by working with members from other groups who are also assigned that same focus. These new groups are called ‘expert’ groups. The ‘experts’ then return to their ‘home’ group and share their expertise which is required for the completion of the home group task. As in a jigsaw puzzle, each piece or each student's part is essential to enable the completion and understanding of the home group task.

The strategy can be used across most curriculum levels, once students are able to work with some autonomy in a group. In this example, students from years 5 and 6 developed their understanding about endangered animals. This was part of a larger study that focused on biodiversity, the variety of all life on earth – plants and animals and the ecosystems they form, and interdependence, the relationship between all living things (including people) and their physical environment. Although it was discussed within a global context, for the home group task, students looked specifically at New Zealand and the threat of extinction facing many species today. It was necessary to understand the difference between threatened, endangered and extinct.

Education for sustainability in the curriculum

  • Vision – ‘actively involved’ p.8
  • Key competencies – relating to others and participating and contributing p. 12
  • Effective Pedagogy – creating a supportive learning environment p.34
  • Learning and working collaboratively supports education for sustainability as it draws on everyone’s strengths to take action for sustainability.

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