«CLASSROOM COMPETITION AND CULTURAL DIVERSITY American education has been in a state of crisis for almost as long as we can remember. This has ...»
Teacher interventions are aide at helping students learn content more eﬀectively and helping them develop an eﬃcient, comfortable, cooperative process. Perhaps most important, the teacher models for the students eﬀective jigsaw process. Through his interventions, even phrasing, tone of voice, and the kinds of suggestions he makes, the teacher provides an example students can eventually imitate in their roles as group members. The teacher can usefully make several types of interventions at diﬀerent stages of the jigsaw process.
The ﬁrst time expert groups meet, students may have diﬃculty ﬁnding eﬀective, interesting ways of presenting their material. The teacher can help them learn how to extract important points from the printed information and think of creative ways to present what they have learned. The ﬁrst time students present, they often simply read their paragraphs aloud - a boring experience for the listeners.
Some examples of teacher interventions in the ﬁrst expert sessions follow:
• "Can you think of how the material you just read is related to your own life? Are there any examples in your own life you could use in explaining this to your groupmates?" • "Do you know what you are going to say when you go back to your jigsaw group?" Once students return to the jigsaw groups, the teacher may need to encourage them in their actual presentations. At the beginning some may have diﬃculty summarizing material in their own words. Even after experience in the expert group, they may simply read the paragraph aloud in the jigsaw group. You will need to remind them gently that putting the information in their own words makes their presentations more interesting and easier to follow. You should also encourage them to include the examples and interesting points discussed in the expert group and to comment on the presentation of other members.
Initially - in both expert and jigsaw groups - students may stop working together and become merely six individuals working alone who happen to be sharing a space. This may happen because they are practicing their own parts while others are talking. The teacher must emphasize that the purpose of the expert groups is for the students with the same material to help each other learn it and that jigsaw groups also are meant to be situations where the students learn from each other. The following interventions are useful in reminding students of this: • "Are you helping one another learn the material?" • "Is everybody in this group understanding the material you covered today?" Sometimes very quick students ﬁnish learning the material early and withdraw from the rest of the discussion, leaving other group members to struggle by themselves. This is the time for the teacher to emphasize the student's role as teacher as well as student. The bright student need not disappear when she has learned the material. Rather she should be encouraged to spend the extra time helping other students learn. We have found that taking this role in the group can be very rewarding for bright students and prevents them from getting bored. Having students fulﬁll this function also helps narrow the social and communication gap between high achievers and low
• "Now that you've learned the material, can you help John learn it so he can teach it to his groupmates?" Perhaps the most important intervention the teacher will make is convincing students that ﬁghting, teasing, and insulting each other are dysfunctional behaviors. Working in groups invariably involves some conﬂict. The teacher will ﬁnd that some of the quicker students become impatient with those who learn more slowly; that fourth-, ﬁfth-, and sixth-grade students have deﬁnite misgivings about cooperating with (or even sitting next to) classmates of the opposite sex; and that exiting rivalries tend to get exaggerated in the group setting. However, as described in more detail in Chapter (what?), Jigsaw can be an excellent place to work out some of these conﬂicts and build understanding and harmonious relations.
There are two roles in the jigsaw classroom which merit special consideration: that of teacher and of student group leader. These two are closely related. The role of the group leader is patterned after the teacher's role; they are both "facilitators," whose function is to lead a group, help the members look at how they are working together, and examine how they can improve their interaction in order to accomplish some task. (These roles will be described in more detail in Chapter 6.) Ideally, the ultimate goal with jigsaw groups is to reach a point where a facilitator is no longer necessary because group-process skills will have been taken over by the members. In the jigsaw classroom, the teacher, as facilitator, seeks to help the children teach themselves and each other in smoothly functioning small groups. In any given classroom there may be five or six groups and, since the teacher cannot be everywhere at once, each group has a leader, a teacher's "assistant" through whom group-process skills are passed to each student, and who also acts as an organizer for the business of the day.
Finally, the role of group leader need not be a permanent one. As the interpersonal and group skills develop, group members may take turns being the leader.
JIGSAW BASICS !25 PART 3
SOLVING PROBLEMS IN THE JIGSAW CLASSROOMWhile research continues to demonstrate numerous advantages of cooperative learning, this does not mean that working with it is problem free. Certain problems do occur for which teachers have devised a variety of solutions. This chapter contains a collection of some of the more common problems, together with suggestions for how they might be handled. Many of these problems are not unique to the jigsaw method and neither are the solutions. But, as we saw earlier, the jigsaw method often illuminates problems that are hidden in more competitive classroom dynamics. More importantly, though, the jigsaw method often provides solutions that otherwise would be less readily available.
PROBLEM: THE NEED FOR COMMUNICATION SKILLSTeasing, feuding, putting each other down--these activities, unfortunately, are as much a part of life in the classroom as reading and math. They take place in virtually all classrooms, in all sections of the country, at all grade levels and in all classroom structures. The jigsaw group is an intimate situation, one where children work in very close association and depend heavily on each other.
Because of this, conﬂict may seem more frequent, particularly at ﬁrst, than in a competitive classroom.
The great advantage of jigsaw is that this structure allows children to develop conﬂict resolution skills--so that they can solve their own problems as they occur. This is particularly true if these skills are emphasized as part of the school culture. Fortunately, in many school systems, children now enter the middle elementary school grades with at least a modicum of experience at conﬂict resolution on the playground. The importance and usefulness of having a process to solve problems is, therefore, not brand new to them and in many cases they have already practiced many of the necessary skills.
JIGSAW BASICS !26 For example, many youngsters have learned not to interrupt others, that name calling and put-downs are not eﬀective, and so on.
In a jigsaw classroom, the children are not individually isolated units. They are not forced by the arrangement of the classroom to curtail their conﬂicts and postpone them until recess. Moreover, any group (such as the one described in the previous chapter) has certain built-in conﬂicts attributable to the age of the children. Among third and fourth grade girls, best friend/best enemy conﬂicts sometimes interfere with classroom peace and among eleven- and twelve-year- olds, feelings of attraction and annoyance may run strong especially between children of diﬀerent sex. A boy and girl may regard each other with familiar suspicion, but a degree of interest may also begin to emerge. One day they may show exaggerated horror at ﬁnding they must sit together, the next they may seem to enjoy working together, or vice versa.
Besides these complexities, there are the conﬂicts which arise around the task itself. A certain amount of material must be covered by tomorrow, but someone is holding back the group. Someone else is pushing ahead too rapidly and leaving the others behind in confusion. Because the jigsaw group tends to bring conﬂicts to the surface, it provides the setting and the tools for the children to work through those conﬂicts and learn something about themselves and one another in the process.
Moreover, because only a few children are involved, the rest of the class need not be interrupted in its work. Accordingly, the teacher may decide to use an instance of petty quarreling as vehicle to help the children learn about how their behavior aﬀects others.
To demonstrate how the teacher might do this, we will use a simple, unsubtle instance of negative communication. Name-calling is a great American cultural tradition. Nicknames are often seen as signs of affection. In reality, nicknames are often used to express feelings about someone, both positive and negative. We call members of our family "honey" or "sweetie" but sometimes there is cruelty attached to the names we call others. Let us suppose Jason is a boy, who like most children, watches television an average of five hours a day. In almost every show, whether a police show, cartoon, or comedy, somebody gets called a name by someone else. It may be for laughs, but Jason comes to know that name-calling is a common way of interacting with others, one that gets a reaction out of others. Life seems to mirror television: when Jason's older sister stays out too late with her boyfriend, dad might get angry and in his anger, refers to her boyfriend a slacker. And when Jason's mother opens the latest car repair bill, she might mutter something to the effect that the mechanic who failed to fix her car properly is an idiot and a thief. It is understandable that Jason comes to believe that name-calling is what you do to express JIGSAW BASICS !27 displeasure. Even children with well developed conflict resolution skills that include the dictum "no putdowns", sometimes fail to recognize the sting of naming.
With such experience behind him, Jason goes to school and settles down in his jigsaw group to complete some work for the test tomorrow. But alas, Sara has her Civil War battles all mixed up. "You idiot," Jason says somewhat mildly. "I am not, you creep," Sara replies heatedly, and the task is forgotten; the squabble is on.
What is going on here? What kind of intervention is needed? It may help to look a this brief interaction as a chain of events.
Jason has some feelings and, at least in part, he expresses them. Sara perceives that his verbal behavior is directed against her, and it arouses certain feelings in her, feelings which Jason may have had no intention of arousing. It is natural for Sara, in her hurt and anger, to interpret Jason's intentions wrongly. She evaluates Jason as a person by calling him a name just as he called her a name.
Now let's ﬁll in the particulars. By calling Sara an idiot, Jason has revealed his impatience but not his anxiety about the test tomorrow. His intention is to get Sara to hurry up and pull herself together.
And, too, there may be some boy-girl anxieties in the background, barely, if at all, conscious.
But Jason's sarcasm hurts Sara's feelings. She would like to be liked and admired even though she cannot seem to keep her Civil War battles straight. She thinks Jason meant to hurt her and put her down, because he is mean, aggressive, and a boy. She masks her hurt feelings by calling Jason a creep.
She wants to get even by making Jason feel small and ugly.
So the situation has escalated; the problem of covering the material in a limited time has blown up into an unpleasant personal confrontation. Jason's semi- serious, semi-teasing behavior puts Sara on the defensive and she retaliates in full anger. Now he will have to defend himself. Under such circumstances what can the teacher do? As you remember, the group we observed and described in the previous chapter was able to move past their quarrel fairly quickly, without intervention so that interference with the academic task was minimal. But suppose intervention is required Then the teacher may decide simply to brush past the quarrel with a practical reminder of their task. On the other hand, he may decide it is time for these interpersonal diﬃculties to be faced directly. In this case he would attempt two things. First, he would guide the children to an awareness of the eﬀects they are having on one another. Second, he would help them ﬁnd better ways to express their feelings. His
intervention might go something like this:
No...but she ought to hurry up, she ought to be organized by now. So you were feeling impatient?
I bet you were also kind of worried about that test tomorrow.
But did teasing help Sara straighten things out?
In other words, the teacher is helping Jason focus on his feelings and his behavior, and moving away from examining what is wrong with Sara. The teacher may sense the boy-girl issue but may want to save it for a later date when the children have more experience sharing their feelings and more conﬁdence expressing themselves. He then returns to Sara and asks how she felt when Jason called her a name. She may reply that she wanted to punch him in the mouth (a quick and common translation of feeling into fantasy action), but with help she may admit to feeling anger and ﬁnally to feeling hurt. This is because the teacher has, at least for the moment, converted a win-lose atmosphere into one where it is safe to share feelings of vulnerability. The teacher does this by his attitude as much as anything else, by being caring and helpful and gentle. Intervention of an authoritarian nature ("Why did you do that? It's not nice. I'm ashamed of you. You know better.") has the opposite eﬀect. Of course they know better, but they are caught in some diﬃcult emotions and do not know what else to do.