Jigsaw Classroom to Reduce Violence

Sherif’s Realistic Conflict Theory

  • What is goal interdependence?
  • What did Sherif do to reduce conflict between the groups?

In the Robber’s Cave Experiment, Sherif and his colleagues divided boys into two groups and encouraged competition between the two. To test under what circumstances the stereotypes and conflict between the groups (Eagles and Rattlers) could be reduced the researchers devised a series of tasks that relied on “goal interdependence”. This means that between the two groups (inter) they had to rely on each other (dependent) to achieve a common goal. One way they did this was by having a truck “break down” on its way to taking the boys camping. The boys had to work together to pull the truck up a hill to get it going again.

Before and after the series of interdependent tasks the researchers asked the boys how many best friend they had in the out-group (i.e. not their group). Before the co-operation phase the % of best friend in a different group was around 10%, but this rose to between 20 – 35% afterwards.
Conditions of Group Contact to Reduce Conflict

  • What are the conditions of contact between groups needed to reduce conflict?

Over decades of research into inter-group conflict (conflict between groups) psychologists have concluded that a few conditions are needed in order for contact between groups to reduce conflict:

  1. Mutual interdependence (relying on one another)
  2. Having a common goal
  3. Everyone has equal status
  4. Friendly and informal setting
  5. Multiple members of the out-group need to be present (to stop outliers)
  6. Changes in social norms

Your challenge is to somehow use this information so that you’ll remember it. The best way to do this would be to think of a particular situation where inter-group conflict exists, like between schools, racial groups, gangs, competing countries, etc.
The Origins of the Jigsaw Classroom

  • Why was Aronson asked to design new classroom strategies?
  • What similarities existed between the desegregated classrooms and the groups in the Robber’s Cave experiment?

In the United States in the 1960s and 1970s many schools became desegregated. That is to say, all students from all different ethnic backgrounds started going to the same school (before black students had their own schools, as did Mexican students and white students).During this time there was lots of conflict and fights between students in the schools because of the stereotypes and prejudices that existed about each group.

One issue was that the “traditional classrooms” placed high emphasis on competition and grades and so white students were typically very competitive and wanted to get the best grades. Students from other backgrounds may not have placed the same level of emphasis on competition for grades and so their weak performance in the new desegregated schools might have made the stereotypes between groups worse.

The social psychologist Elliot Aronson was asked by a school district in Texas to help reduce the conflict between the different racial groups. Drawing on knowledge of Sherif’s Robber’s Cave Experiment, Aronson and his colleagues designed a style of teaching and classroom activity called the “Jigsaw Classroom” to reduce hostility, conflict and stereotypes between the different groups.

How Does the Jigsaw Classroom Work

  • What does a jigsaw activity involve?
  • Does it work in reducing violence? How do we know?

The jigsaw classroom works by dividing the class into groups and assigning each student in the group one key piece of information. The student then has to learn that piece of information and teach it to the rest of the group. The other group members are not allowed to read what the member has, but need to listen to them explain it (or even diagram it if necessary). If one student is weak, perhaps the other group members will be encouraging them and maybe even asking probing questions because they all need the information that only that student has. This reduces the traditional classroom focus of competition and focuses on cooperation – all students need to work together to do well.

Aronson gathered data on the effectiveness of the experiments and found that compared to “traditional” classrooms, stereotyping and prejudice had decreased. The results even showed increased performance on exams and greater self-esteem. Aronson’s research showed that the jigsaw classroom method was effective in breaking down stereotypes between groups by improving friendships in the classroom.

Since these early experiments of the jigsaw classroom in the 1970s researchers have shown the benefits of the jigsaw classroom in reducing conflict and stereotypes in classrooms. Other cooperative learning strategies have also been used in schools.
Quiz (written answer – show me after each one)

  1. How does the jigsaw classroom try to reduce violence?
  2. How is the jigsaw classroom based on Sherif’s experiment?
  3. What are the limitations of using a jigsaw classroom to reduce violence?