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Discussion of academic objectives using Jigsaw

Teacher's motivation

Many students do not use the academic objectives stipulated for the course actively when preparing for class and exams. This is because many students think that the academic objectives are abstract and difficult to understand. Teachers may help the students to understand the content of the academic objectives by including them in their teaching.

Description of the activity

The activity is a Jigsaw exercise, and the students work in two different groups during the exercise. First in a main group where they discuss a task. Then in an expert group consisting of one member from each main group who will work on a task whose solution depends on input from the different main group representatives.

Conducting the exercise:

  • Students team up in a number of main groups corresponding to the number of academic objectives, and the students in each group discuss one academic objective for five minutes. Each student is given one academic objective printed on a sheet of coloured paper. Each academic objective has its own colour, so all students in each main group have the same colour paper.
  • In the expert groups consisting of one representative from each main group, the students discuss all academic objectives for ten minutes. In these groups all students have different colour paper.
  • The expert groups present their understandings of the academic objectives to the entire class, followed by a 15-minute question time.

The objectives of the activity:

The purpose is for the students to acquire knowledge about the concrete content in the academic objectives of the course by discussing these in groups and in class. Most students think that the academic objectives are abstract, and the activity gives them an opportunity to see them as concrete. The activity can be used in all courses, for instance as an introduction to the course in the first teaching session. This 20 to 30-minute activity should enable the students to understand the academic objectives better and then to use them actively in their preparation for class and for exams.

Outcome of the activity

In an interview survey focusing on the outcome of the activity, the majority of students state that they find the activity to be important for their understanding of the academic objectives. They say that there is a need for such in-depth study of the academic objectives, and that a presentation of these as bullets in a PowerPoint slide is not sufficient. Discussing the academic objectives with their fellow students is considered by the students as an opportunity to add more details to the various concepts in the academic objectives. Hearing the teacher’s answers to the questions is also considered valuable by the students, because the teacher is able to explain the meaning of terms in the academic objectives in the context of the specific course.

Worth considering

It is important to spend teaching time on the academic objectives, but do not spend too much time, as this may ruin many students’ joy of studying. Focusing on academic objectives should provide the students with understanding and a sense of security, but if too much focus is on the objectives, some students will react negatively as they may get the impression that studying is all about passing exams. As mentioned, for the exercise to run as smoothly as possible, it is a good idea to print the academic objectives on sheets of paper, one objective in each sheet and each objective having a colour of its own. This will enable the members of the main and expert groups, respectively, to team up easily.


    Examples of practice

      Basic information

      • Faculty: Arts
      • Degree Programme: Education science
      • Course: Administration – in the perspective of education science
      • Study level: Master's degree
      • Course size:  Approx. 80.
      • Teaching method: Lecture
      • Extent: Activity
      • Primary type of activity: Discussion
      • How the case was conducted: Campus teaching

      Learning objectives

      The academic objectives for the course state that after completion of the course, the students will have acquired:

      • Knowledge about public management and the structure, recent history and functioning of public management, as well as the basic theories, methods and cases included in the module. Knowledge about the relationship between government officials and the political systems in various national and international fields, including different management logics and functions, with a special emphasis on the field of education.
      • Skills in identifying, describing and analysing theoretical and practical implications of different management issues, including comparing and identifying differences, similarities, strengths, and weaknesses. Skills in applying theories and methods on a given issue or case.
      • Competences in documenting and independently assessing legal and other management-related circumstances and implications. Competences in communicating and independently assessing the theories and methods of the module and their applications in a comparative perspective.

      Links and materials

      • Read more about how Thomas Clausen and Helle Hvass have used Jigsaw for discussing the learning objectives in the blog post The format supports the learning objectives in the teaching. (in danish).
      • Read more about how students relate to and use the learning objectives in the article “What are the students taught that they should learn? A study of students’ perception of learning objectives”, [Hvad lærer de studerende, at de skal lære? En undersøgelse af studerendes opfattelse af læringsmål], Danish Journal of University Pedagogy (2018) [Dansk Universitetspædagogisk Tidsskrift].