Brief Description:Jigsaw.gif

Adapted from OHCHR Toolkit:
The Jigsaw is a cooperative learning strategy that encourages people to develop their own understanding and then share knowledge with the group. Working groups are each assigned a particular part of a problem, or puzzle piece, and the tools to develop knowledge on that specific component. The pieces are then put together using visual materials and facilitation techniques.


The jigsaw technique was first developed in the early 1970s by Elliot Aronson and his students at the University of Texas and the University of California.

When to use:

  • To review multiple cases, issues or actors that are part of a bigger picture
  • To identify possible patterns in a human rights situation
  • To develop synthesis skills
  • To encourage comparative thinking.

How to Use:

  1. Prepare a list of all the possible “pieces” of the subject (actors, country situations).
  2. Collect sources of information for the working sessions, including visual presentations. When appropriate, relevant documents should be made available before the discussion takes place so that participants can come prepared.
  3. Split participants into the appropriate number of working groups (six to eight people per group) to allow each team to examine their piece separately using the resources or tools provided (such as brief articles, notes, reports, images, or access to the internet).
  4. Provide reflection questions that will guide the participants through all the important learning aspects of the piece, including background information, context, actors and consequences.
  5. Ensure that there is an appropriate working space for the groups to document key points.
  6. Provide access to the internet or other resources if the participants are not familiar with the subject matter or the pieces in advance.
  7. Design a series of questions to guide the group reflection process. These should focus on background information, the opportunities and risks, and the relevance, role and meaning of each piece to the overall scenario.
  8. Ask each group to appoint a note-taker and a timekeeper to ensure that the activity is recorded and that all questions are covered within the time limit.
  9. Allow 30 minutes for initial reflection, then close the discussion.
  10. Ask each group to report their observations and key reflections in plenary. Each debriefing may take up to 10 minutes, to ensure it is clear and comprehensive. The reports from each group in plenary provide information to all the participants about the key recommendations for all of the pieces examined.
  11. Open the floor for 15 to 20 more minutes of final discussion, to ensure that the pros and cons of each topic, method or tool are addressed and that the group is confident enough to make future decisions.

Timing (2hours)

  • Introduce the session and objectives (5 minutes)
  • Divide participants into working groups (5 minutes)
  • Individual reflection and working time (30 minutes)
  • Review different pieces in groups (45 minutes)
  • Report back from each group (20 minutes)
  • Debrief on the puzzle as a whole (10 minutes)
  • Close session (5 minutes).


  • One flip chart per group
  • Instructions copied for each participant
  • Pencils and markers
  • Copies of the materials for each piece of the jigsaw
  • Internet access for each group (if required).

Variation of the method

After the initial round of reflection, create new groups composed of one representative of each original group to bring all the pieces together to form the full puzzle. The discussion then proceeds as each representative explains their results.

Tips and Lessons Learnt

  • The working groups should use visual debriefing resources. These may include pictures provided with the initial article, diagrams created on flip charts, or key words used as speaking notes.
  • A double debriefing at the end is effective. The first debriefing focuses on what participants have discussed within their small groups. The second debriefing can focus on the bigger picture that appears once the pieces are assembled. An expert can give additional feedback in the second debriefing

Examples & Stories

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Related Methods / Tools / Practices