Strom trooper toys on a rubics cube

Jigsaw Interview or Three Step Interview


Activity aim: to encourage peer teaching; to catch students up who have missed key content; to check student progress and generate questions

Materials needed: Two sets of instructor-generated questions (set A and set B)  

Time estimated: This can take <10 minutes, but it could also be extended

Activity Description:

Students aren’t doing their homework, but you need to catch them up on important content that they might have missed? Or students did do the homework, but they’ve missed something important? Or you just want to see what they’ve understood and what’s unclear? Give them an opportunity to teach each other what they do know and to figure out what’s missing with this short jigsaw interview.

At the beginning of class, the instructor puts students in pairs and gives each student a card. A pair of two should have an A card and a B card:

Student A

  1. Briefly summarize Alice Goffman’s Ted Talk that you watched for last night’s homework. What’s the major point that she’s making?

    2. Dwayne Betts (the Slate article) disagrees with Goffman’s method. What does he feel that she should have done differently?

    3. How do you feel about Betts’ point? In other words, does Goffman have the “right” to say what she’s saying? Why or why not?

Student B

 1. What is a “thick description?” What was an example of one that we saw in the reading last night?

2. If you were going to do a “thick description” of the classroom right now, what kinds of details would you note?

3. What kinds of conclusions would you draw from those details?


Give Student A a time limit to interview Student B using the questions on the card. Student A will need to remember B’s responses, so they might want to write some notes. At the end of the time, Student B should interview Student A. If a student didn’t do the reading, he or she won’t be able to answer the question, but this gives the peer an opportunity to do a bit of peer teaching.

To extend the activity, student pairs join another group of pairs (so, four students in total). Student A tells the group what Student B said (there will be two Student As, so they can trade off and add any additional missing information). Student B tells the group what Student A said. As this is happening, the instructor is unobtrusively circulating and listening to what students say (and is on hand to note questions to ask the whole group at the end of the exercise).

Groups that finish quickly could write questions that they have for the whole class or for the instructor on the board. If you wanted to extend this further, you could allow groups a bit of time at the end of the exercise to answer the questions collaboratively before eliciting feedback from the group / answering them yourself.  

Image cred: Teymur Madjderey