Kalina White

Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Peter Duffy


The purpose of this action research study is to explore the impact of the cooperative learning technique of the jigsaw method on student engagement in the beginning biology laboratory at Northern Community College (NCC). Professorial observations, a student survey, and interviews were used to investigate whether or not jigsaw methods should be adopted at NCC which serves a moderately large metropolitan area in the Northern United States. Data were collected over a 6-week period over the Fall 2018 semester. Over three weeks, one of three sections were exposed to a jigsaw version of the normal laboratory protocol while the other two sections used a laboratory protocol in use at this school for several years. After each laboratory session, students were asked to complete a survey indicating their perceived value of the activity and their degree of effort related to the cognitive and affective domains of student engagement.

This survey constituted the primary data set and triangulated by the professor- researcher’s observations of student behaviors and short semi-structured interviews striving to elucidate deeper understanding of student perceptions and self-perceived engagement. The guiding research question of this action research (AR) project was to ask, “How does the use of the jigsaw method in the beginning biology laboratory impact student engagement?” Findings were shared with student-participants in three focus groups that lasted approximately an hour, located extrinsic of scheduled laboratory time but in the laboratory room. These focus groups enabled the professor-researcher and student-participants to reflect on the findings from the biology laboratory and to engage student-participant voices in the creation of an action plan for future laboratory activities.