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School of Education Inquiry Projects

Brooke Beckett

Subject: Science Biology

Differentiating Instruction Using Jigsaws: Results in a SDAIE Science Class

Research Questions:
What effect(s) does a jigsaw cooperative learning strategy have on students’ understanding of earth science concepts?
Sub-questions:
* What is the difference, if any, in the effect of using jigsaws on students of varying levels of English Proficiency?
* What effects do jigsaw cooperative learning strategies have on students’ participation and effort (assignment completion)?

Research Activities:
Context: This intervention took place in a 9th grade, SDAIE General (Earth) Science class with 24 students. All the students were Hispanic, speaking Spanish as their primary language. The students had a variety of English abilities ranging from students who began learning English at the beginning of the school year to students who had been learning English since early elementary school. A translator was present daily to assist with translations for the newcomers who were just learning English. I chose to do an intervention in this class due to unacceptably low academic achievement scores, participation, and motivation to complete assignments. Intervention: The instructional approach was a cooperative learning strategy called a jigsaw. Students participated in 3 separate jigsaw interventions, all of which took place over a 3 ½ week time period. The intervention differentiated the instruction for the varied English levels, encouraged interactive participation among students, and provided a reason for students to complete their assignments. Data Gathering: Data was collected through student work during the activity, teacher-made pre-quizzes, and teacher-made post-quizzes. Attitude surveys focusing on assignment completion and participation were given before and after the jigsaws. An attitude survey on the jigsaw strategy itself was given after the final intervention. Throughout the intervention, observational field notes on student behavior were made, especially focused on the newcomers and the translator. Data was also collected by observing the entire class to mark behavior tallies and engagement levels. Conclusion and Findings: Jigsaws were found to increase students’ understandings of earth science concepts, but not consistently to a high level. Jigsaws helped half of the students with low grades to improve their grades, but did not help to improve the grades of students who already had higher grades. Students’ participation increased some and students felt they completed more assignments, although the data did not reveal much of a change in the latter area. The newcomers noticeably had the greatest increase for achievement and participation.

Grade: 9

Research Methods:
Observation-Field notes; Observation-Student engagement/behavior tallies; Student work; Survey-Attitude; Teacher-made assessment

Curriculum Areas:
ESL/ELL; Reading; Reading-Reading in the Content Areas; Science; Science-Earth Science

Instructional Approaches:
Cooperative learning; Literacy; Oral language (ELD); Reading-Fluency; Student engagement


The preparatory work for setting up the MA/Credential Teacher Research database was supported in part by the UC Language Minority Research Institute