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Teaching chemical bonding through


jigsaw cooperative learning
a
Kemal Doymus
a
Atatrk University , Erzurum, Turkey
Published online: 11 Mar 2008.

To cite this article: Kemal Doymus (2008) Teaching chemical bonding through jigsaw
cooperative learning, Research in Science & Technological Education, 26:1, 47-57, DOI:
10.1080/02635140701847470

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02635140701847470

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Research in Science & Technological Education
Vol. 26, No. 1, April 2008, 4757

Teaching chemical bonding through jigsaw cooperative learning


Kemal Doymus*

Atatrk University, Erzurum, Turkey


This study examined the effectiveness of jigsaw cooperative learning in teaching chemical
Research
10.1080/02635140701847470
CRST_A_284887.sgm
0263-5143
Original
Taylor
102008
26
kdoymus@atauni.edu.tr
KemalDoymus
00000April
and
&Article
in
Francis
(print)/1470-1138
Francis
Science
2008 Ltd& Technological
(online) Education

bonding at tertiary level. This study was carried out in two different classes in the Department
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of Primary Science Education of Atatrk University during the 20052006 academic year. One
of the classes was the non-jigsaw group (control) and the other was the jigsaw group
(experimental). Students in the jigsaw group were divided into four home groups since
chemical bonding is divided into four subtopics (Modules A, B, C and D). Each of these home
groups consisted of four students. The subjects covered were ionic bonding (Module A),
covalent bonding (Module B), hydrogen bonding and van der Waals (Module C) and basic
concepts about bonds (Module D). The main instrument for obtaining data was the Chemical
Bonding Achievement Test (CBAT), which was applied to both groups. The CBAT was
divided into four modules (A, B, C and D), in which each module consisted of five questions
(four multiple-choice and one open-ended). The data obtained indicated that the students in the
jigsaw group were more successful than those in the non-jigsaw group.
Keywords: chemical bonding; cooperative learning; jigsaw technique

Introduction
Teacher education programs play an important role in our society because they serve the public
interest. One of the primary responsibilities of teacher education programs is to produce effective
classroom teachers. Pedagogical research has demonstrated that constructivism can help teachers
become successful in the classroom (Emmer and Gerwels 2002; Vaughan 2002; Cassas 2006).
Therefore, it is in the best interest of pre-service teachers that they become familiar with a
constructivist philosophy of teaching and learning. Constructivism can be understood as a theory
of learning: students construct knowledge in the process of learning through interaction with
phenomenon, as they develop shared-meaning of a phenomenon via interactions within a social
context (i.e., culture). Though the particulars of constructivist focused learning theory are often
contested among science educators, it is generally agreed that students learn by making sense of
phenomenon as they experience it, evaluate its evidentiary merits, and attempt to make sense of
it within a socially acceptable context in light of prior knowledge (Lord 1999; Gold 2001). Some
constructivists stress the role of social interactions in this process, while others do not. Most
constructivists agree learning occurs when individuals assimilate new information into existing
mental models of the world, or construct as a result of discrepant insights new models that can
accommodate both old and new insights gained from experience (Mintzes et al. 1998).
All would agree that the building of knowledge structures on the part of a student requires
she or he be actively engaged in the process of learning. Students of large lectures, therefore,
should not be regarded at automatons capable of learning by passive modes of oral dissemination
of content, rather as individuals requiring the social and active construction of knowledge, as
participants in a process that has as a goal the construction of knowledge as useful product

*Email: kdoymus@atauni.edu.tr

ISSN 0263-5143 print/ISSN 1470-1138 online


2008 Taylor & Francis
DOI: 10.1080/02635140701847470
http://www.informaworld.com
48 K. Doymus

(Duschl 1990). There are some specific activities that blend in quite well with the social
constructivist school of thought. It is important that you embed learning in social experience
(Honebein 1996, p.11). After all, for social constructivism to work there is a great need for some
form of social interaction. One example of this is through cooperative learning. Cooperative
learning allows for learning and development to become social collaborative activities (Rice and
Wilson 1999; Ewing and Miller 2002).
The constructivist perspective on learning is now widely accepted. Learning is an active
process that takes place in the mind of the learner, and during which information from sources in
the environment is re-interpreted in terms of existing knowledge and understanding. Whilst there
are certainly differences in emphasis for example, in the extent to which knowledge construc-
tion should be seen as an inter-personal rather than just an intra-personal activity it is generally
accepted that meaningful learning requires the student to make sense of new information in terms
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of existing cognitive structure. The overwhelming evidence for this type of approach is the vast
literature on students alternative conceptions in science, which demonstrates that understanding
differently is as likely an outcome of teaching as understanding-as intended or indeed not
understanding (i.e., not making any sense of the presentation) (Taber 2001).
For the past decade, chemistry scholars and researchers have been trying to explain how
students should be helped to understand chemistry better (Ben-Zvi et al. 1986; Gabel 1998; Keig
and Rubba 1993; Kozma and Russell 1997; Wu et al. 2001). Researchers have been arguing the
necessity of learning at macroscopic, microscopic and symbolic levels (Gabel 1998; Johnstone
1993). At the macroscopic level, chemical processes are observable, for example, burning
candles. At the microscopic level, chemical phenomena are explained by the arrangement and
motion of molecules, atoms or subatomic particles. Chemistry at the symbolic level is represented
by symbols, numbers, formulae, equations and structures. Empirical studies (Ben-Zvi et al. 1986;
Griffiths and Preston 1992) have shown that microscopic and symbolic representations are
especially difficult for students to understand because these representations are conceptually
demanding and abstract since students thinking relies heavily on sensory information. To help
students understand chemistry on three levels, researchers have suggested a variety of instruc-
tional approaches based on constructivism, such as adapting teaching strategies based on the
conceptual change model (Krajcik et al. 1988), integrating laboratory activities into classroom
instruction (Johnstone and Letton 1990), using concrete models (Copolo and Hounshell 1995) and
using technologies as learning tools (Barnea and Dori 1996; Kozma et al. 1996). However, in
chemistry education, it is important to learn methods as well as instructional approaches. Among
the learning methods, one of the leading ones is that of cooperative learning (Wu et al. 2001).
Cooperative learning is facilitated by assigning students to small groups in which they work
together to maximize their own and one anothers learning. Students achieve more, improve their
social skills, and increase their capacity to work productively together (Colosi and Zales 1998).
In cooperative learning, students are divided into groups, or teams, in which they carry out
assigned work. This way of forming teams differs from the common practice of asking students
to form their own groups and to divide the work without guidance (Doymus et al. 2004; Bolling
1994; Gardener and Korth 1996; Johnson et al. 1981; Lazarowitz et al. 1994; Eilks 2005; Levine
2001; Bowen 2000; Slavin 1980).
Different techniques, designed with various aims, are used in the cooperative learning method.
Jigsaw, one of these techniques (Aronson et al. 1978), is preferred by researchers since it can be
used in the classroom and makes it easy for students to understand the subject. In the jigsaw tech-
nique, each student prepares a part of the assignment out of class. On returning to the group, each
student peer teaches the information to the rest of the members. All groups in a class may cover
the same topic or different groups may have different parts of the topic. Groups are subsequently
reorganized to peer teach the material (Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks 2000).
Research in Science & Technological Education 49

The jigsaw cooperative learning structure enhances cooperative learning by making each
student responsible for teaching some of the material to the group. In this structure, students are
members of two different groups, the home group and the jigsaw group. Initially, students meet
in their home groups and each member of the group is assigned a portion of the material to learn
as an expert (Slavin 1991). The home groups then break apart, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and
students move into jigsaw groups, which consist of members from the other home groups who have
been assigned the same portion of the material. While in the jigsaw groups, the students discuss
their particular material to ensure that they understand it. Students then return to their home groups,
where they teach their material to the rest of their group (Clarke 1999; Colosi and Zales 1998).
The research suggests (Rioux 2001; Stotts and Conceicao 2006) that chemical bonding is one
of the difficult concepts that students find difficult to grasp. It is argued here that cooperative
learning and jigsaw technique improves learning as well as interactions among the students.
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Therefore it was thought that it would be beneficial for the students to teach through cooperative
learning in order to increase their success in chemical bonding. Different cooperative techniques,
designed with various aims, are used in the cooperative learning method. Jigsaw, one of these
techniques, is preferred by researchers since it can be used in the classroom and makes it easy for
students to understand the subject. In the various jigsaw techniques (Hedeen 2003), each student
prepares a part of the assignment out of classroom (Grasha and Yangarber-Hicks 2000). There-
fore, the main aim of this study was determined as to examine the impact of the Jigsaw I technique
(Colosi and Zales 1998) on the teaching of the subject chemical bonding, a difficult part of the
general chemistry course.

Method
The sample of this study consisted of a total of 36 undergraduates from two different classes
enrolled in the general chemistry course for the 20052006 academic year at Ataturk University,
Turkey. One of the classes was defined as the non-jigsaw (control) group (n = 20) and was taught
by the traditional approach, while the jigsaw (experimental) group (n = 16) was taught through
cooperative learning (jigsaw). No pre-test was given because all undergraduates enrolled at the
university had passed an entrance exam and all were similar to each other in terms of academic
achievement. In Turkey, there is a centralized university entrance exam system which is highly
competitive. Each year almost two million students take this exam and only 10% of them can get
a place in a university. The minimum and maximum marks to enter all universities in Turkey are
200.4 and 391.2 respectively. Students minimum and maximum marks in this study are 272.6
and 289.1 respectively. As seen from this range of marks it could be accepted that students partic-
ipated in this study have similar academic achievement.

Instruments
The main instrument for obtaining data was the Chemical Bonding Achievement Test (CBAT),
which was applied to both groups. The CBAT was developed by the author and three chemistry
teachers. The validity of the test was checked by a professor and two other chemistry teachers.
Regarding the reliability of CBAT was divided into four modules (A, B, C and D) in which each
module consisted of five questions (four multiple-choice and one open-ended). Multiple-choice
questions were piloted with undergraduates (n = 42) who had taken the general chemistry course
the year before. Item analyses were calculated for each question and confusing or vague questions
were rewritten prior to use. The KR-20 values for the multiple-choice questions for each module
of the CBAT were determined and are as follows: Module A 0.68, Module B 0.60, Module C 0.66
and Module D 0.59. Open-ended questions on the CBAT were evaluated qualitatively. The
50 K. Doymus

overall reliability coefficient (KR 20) for all the multiple-choice questions on the CBAT was
calculated as 0,64.

Process
The subjects in both groups took the chemical bonding unit for three weeks (three hours per
week). The teaching in both groups was carried out by the author, a chemistry instructor. As
indicated in Figure 1, the students in the jigsaw group were divided into four home groups since
chemical bonding is divided into four subtopics: Modules A, B, C and D. Each home group
consisted of four students.
These modules are described below:
Figure 1. Subtopics (modules) of chemical bonding topic and home groups representing these modules. Each code, A1, A2, A3 etc., stands for an individual student from a group.

Home group A (HGA): The students in HGA prepared the subjects characteristics of ionic
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bonding, ionic compounds and ionic crystal structures and presented them in the class
(Module A).
Home group B (HGB): The students in HGB prepared and presented the subjects charac-
teristics of covalent bonds, polar and apolar molecules, and covalent compounds (Module B).
Home group C (HGC): The students in HGC prepared and presented the subjects hydrogen
bonding and van der Waals forces (Module C).
Home group D (HGD): The students in HGD prepared and presented the subjects bond
angles, Lewis structures, bond energy, geometry structure of molecules, and intermolecular
and intramolecular bonds (Module D).
Each home group studied their subjects out of class. Each group was then given 30 minutes
to present their work in the classroom and 20 minutes to discuss it with the class. During the
discussion time, the home group answered the questions coming from the class. The home groups
then broke apart, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle (Goodwin et al. 1991), and students moved into
jigsaw groups consisting of members from the other home groups who had been assigned the
same portion of the material. Following the presentation of all subtopics of chemical bonding,
one student from each home group was selected to form jigsaw groups, JA, JB, JC and JD, as
illustrated in Figure 2.
In these jigsaw groups, the members were asked to familiarize themselves with their subtopics.
Figure 2. Forming jigsaw groups from home groups.

As these jigsaw groups understood the subtopic, each jigsaw group had to prepare a teaching

HOME GROUPS

A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2
A3 A4 B3 B4 C3 C4 D3 D4

HGA HGB HGC HGD


Figure 1. Subtopics (modules) of chemical bonding topic and home groups representing these modules.
Each code, A1, A2, A3 etc., stands for an individual student from a group.
Research in Science & Technological Education 51

HOME GROUPS

HGA HGB HGC HGD

A1 A2 B1 B2 C1 C2 D1 D2
A3 A4 B3 B4 C3 C4 D3 D4

A1 B1 A2 B2 A3 B3 A4 B4
C1 D1 C2 D2 C3 D3 C4 D4
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JA JB JC JD

JIGSAW GROUPS ( JA, JB, JC and JD)


Figure 2. Forming jigsaw groups from home groups.

strategy that its members could use to explain their subtopic to the rest of the class. Each jigsaw
group presented their own topic to the class for 30 minutes, and then discussed the related topics
for 20 minutes. The students then went back into their home groups and were called expert
students. The experts were now in charge of teaching their specific subtopic to the rest of the
students in their group. Once the teaching was completed, the CBAT was applied to both jigsaw
and non-jigsaw groups following the presentation of the subject of chemical bonding. The data
obtained were evaluated by SPSS.

Findings and discussion


The data obtained from the multiple-choice questions of all the modules of the CBAT and the
independent sample t test analysis of these data are given in Table 1.
The achievement scores of Module A in Table 1 show that the achievement of the jigsaw group
is higher than that of the non-jigsaw group. Students responses in both groups to the open-ended
Table 1. Results of independent sample t test analysis of multiple-choice questions of all modules of the
CBAT.

Group N Meana SD t p

Module A Jigsaw 16 72.6 11.6 3.760 0.001


Non-jigsaw 20 51.2 29.0
Module B Jigsaw 16 89.8 12.4 5.666 0.001
Non-jigsaw 20 64.6 20.0
Module C Jigsaw 16 73.4 21.2 2.892 0.008
Non-jigsaw 20 54.0 28.2
Module D Jigsaw 16 61.7 23.0 3.334 0.002
Non-jigsaw 20 39.4 25.2

Note: aMaximum score = 100.


52 K. Doymus

Table 2. Students responses to the open-ended question of Module A (What is an ionic bond? Please
provide as much information as you can).

Students opinions %

Jigsaw group
* -Ionic bond forms between an element with high ionization energy and an element with low 30
ionization energy.
* -Ionic bond is an attraction force between positive and negative charges. 40
* -Ionic bond is a bond that forms between metal and non-metal elements for a stable structure 15
- Other opinions 15
Non-jigsaw group
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* -Ionic bond forms as a result of electron loss and electron gain of metal and non-metal elements 18
* -Ionic bond is polar and linear. 20
-Ionic compound is formed from matter dissolving in water. 15
-Ionic bond is a physical attraction between a cation and an anion. 37
-Other opinions 10

* Scientific opinions.

question in Module A are presented in Table 2. This question was answered correctly by 85% of
the students in the jigsaw group and by 38% of those in the non-jigsaw group. The correct answers
that the students in the jigsaw group gave to the multiple-choice questions for Module A are consis-
tent with the correct answers given to the open-ended question for this module. In most studies,
it has been reported that students think that for a pure ionic bond one atom loses an electron or
electrons and the other gains an electron or electrons and they cannot go beyond this information.
The bond then consists of attraction between oppositely charged ions although loss and gain of
electrons are not seen as the driving force for ionic bonding (Coll and Treagust 2003). Even bonds
between atoms with a very large difference in electronegativity are only partially ionic in nature,
and it is more appropriate to talk of the ionic character (or proportion) of a bond (Cotton et al.
1999). In our study, non-jigsaw students stated that ionic bonding is physical attraction between
a cation and an anion and an ionic compound was formed from matter dissolving in water. This
shows that the students holding this idea have difficulty in understanding ionic bonding.
Relating to Module B, representing covalent bond subtopics, Table 1 shows that there is a
statistically significant difference between the two groups with respect to achievement scores
(t = 5.666; p = 0.001). Achievement in the jigsaw group is higher than that in the non-jigsaw
group. Students responses in both groups to the open-ended question of this module are
presented in Table 3. This question was answered correctly by 75% of the students in the jigsaw
group and by 35% of those in the non-jigsaw group. The achievement of the students in the jigsaw
group obtained from the multiple-choice questions for Module B are supported by the correct
answers given to the open-ended question for this module. Relating to covalent bond concepts,
students have difficulty in learning polar and apolar bonds and the use of shared electrons (Birk
and Kurtz 1999; George et al. 1997; Griffiths and Preston 1992). Non-jigsaw students in this
study stated that a covalent bond is linear and polar and only one electron is shared by an
element in a covalent bond. This indicates that the students holding this idea have difficulty in
understanding covalent bonding.
Relating to Module C, Table 1 shows that there is a statistically significant difference
between the jigsaw and non-jigsaw groups with respect to achievement scores (t = 2.892; p =
0.008). Some written responses in both groups to the open-ended question for this module are
Research in Science & Technological Education 53

Table 3. Students responses to the open-ended question of Module B (What is a covalent bond? Please
provide as much information as you can).

Students opinions %

Jigsaw group
* Covalent bond is formed by sharing of electrons 45
* Covalent bond is formed by sharing of electrons between two non-metal elements 28
* Elements that form covalent bonds try to resemble noble gases 12
Covalent bond is formed as a result of sharing of valence electrons between metal and non-metal 5
elements.
Covalent bond is linear and apolar 3
Other opinions 7
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Non-jigsaw group
* Covalent bond is formed as a result of sharing of non-metal elements 25
* Covalent bond is linear and polar 10
Covalent bond is formed between non-metal element and ions 15
Covalent bond is formed by sharing of electrons 12
Only one electron is shared by an element in a covalent bond 14
Other opinions 24

Note: *Scientific opinions.

shown in Table 4. For this question 33% of the students in the jigsaw group and 62% of those in
the non-jigsaw group answered incorrectly by drawing graphics showing intermolecular bonds.
Bodner (1986), and Johnson and Gott (1996) reported that students had difficulty in distinguish-
ing intermolecular bonds from intramolecular ones. In another study, Goh et al. (1993) found
that students were better able to understand intermolecular bonds and intramolecular bonds. Our
Table 4. Some examples of students wrong responses to the open-ended question of Module C (Show
intermolecular bond in an example drawing).
54 K. Doymus

findings relating to Module C were consistent with those reported by Nicoll (2001), and Coll and
Taylor (2002).
Relating to Module D, representing basic concepts about bonds such as bond polarity, mole-
cule formation, intermolecular force, molecule polarity and the octet rule, Table 1 shows that there
is a statistically significant difference between the jigsaw and non-jigsaw groups with respect to
achievement scores (t = 3.334; p = 0.002). While students were asked to draw by giving examples
of intermolecular and intramolecular bonds in the open-ended question for Module C, they were
asked to explain intermolecular and intramolecular bonds in the open-ended question for Module
D. Responses of the students in both groups to the open-ended question of this module are given
in Table 5. This question was answered correctly by 78% of those in the jigsaw group and by 54%
of those in the non-jigsaw group. Coll and Treagust (2003) reported that students had difficulty
in learning the basic concepts related to bonds such as bond polarity, molecule formation,
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intermolecular force, molecule polarity and the octet rule.

Conclusions
This research investigated the effects of intervention discussion sections on student learning. The
goal was to understand how to foster better understanding of the principles of chemical bonding.
Specifically, the following research question was investigated: Will chemistry students gain a
better understanding of ionic, covalent, intermolecular and intramolecular bonding by explaining
their understanding of chemical bonding concept?
The reason why the students in the jigsaw group were more successful than those in the non-
jigsaw group in each of the four module groups is that in the jigsaw group the subjects were divided
into subtopics, the students studied these subjects, and discussed them with their classmates out
of class first. They then participated in the discussion between the groups in the class and used
the jigsaw technique, which created a successful discussion environment. Furthermore, the jigsaw
groups achievement is better when the percentages of correct answers the students gave to the
open-ended questions of all modules are compared (see Tables 2 and 3).
In the light of this evidence, it appears that some learning methods may be necessary in chem-
istry education at all levels to facilitate students understanding of bonding topics. In cooperative

Table 5. Students responses to the open-ended question of Module D (What is the difference between
intermolecular and intramolecular bonds? Please provide as much information as you can).

Students opinions %

Jigsaw group
*Intermolecular bonds are the bonds that keep two similar or different compounds together 42
*Intermolecular bonds keep two compounds together 36
Intermolecular bonds are ionic and covalent bonds 14
Other opinions 8
Non-jigsaw group
*Intermolecular bonds are the bonds that keep the same or two different compounds together 24
*Intermolecular bonds are bonds that keep two or three molecules together 14
*Intermolecular bonds keep the elements of the compound together 16
Intermolecular bonds are physical bonds 12
Compounds that are composed of single elements such as H, O, Cl form intermolecular bonds 6
Other opinions 28

Note: *Scientific opinions.


Research in Science & Technological Education 55

learning, students spend more time on these topics combined with more discussion on chemical
bonding subtopics by defending or arguing their positions. Whats more, teachers need to empha-
size the transitions between the symbolic, macroscopic and microscopic worlds so that students
will develop their own mental models of bonding on these three levels. It is necessary for chemistry
students to understand these topics before moving on to more advanced ones (Nicoll 2001).
It could be implied that dividing the chemical bonding units into subtopics and having the
students in the home groups (HGA, HGB, HGC and HGD) in experimental groups deliver the
subtopics and prepare and discuss these subtopics out of class and also present them was of great
benefit to the students who had difficulty in understanding chemical bonding. In addition, the
jigsaw groups (JA, JB, JC and JD) consisted of the students of home groups, which means that
the students discussed these sub-topics with different students who had researched the topic, and
this helped to remedy their lack of knowledge.
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In most research on the teaching of chemical bonding, it has been repeated (see Rioux 2001;
Stotts and Conceicao 2006) that students have difficulty in learning similar subjects such as
intermolecular and intramolecular bonds, polar and apolar bonds and ionic and covalent bonding.
The reason why students have difficulty in learning these subjects might be the fact that the
teacher plays an active role throughout the learning process while the students are passive listen-
ers. In this study, cooperative learning was used, in which the student has the active role and the
teacher the passive one.
As a result, the subdivision of the subjects of chemical bonds, where the jigsaw class was
divided first into home groups then into jigsaw groups, and the fact that the research and presen-
tation of these subjects was done by these groups resulted in both greater academic success
among the students and the greater reduction of misconceptions about chemical bonds via a better
understanding of the subject. The evaluation of the answers to the open-ended questions for each
module showed that the jigsaw method is an active method for improving students understand-
ing of the subject.
In conclusion, this method will be beneficial for both the academic success of the students and
the elimination of misconceptions about particular subjects, and it will make students more
active. The fact that students in the jigsaw groups gave more correct answers to the open-ended
questions demonstrates that students had the chance to contribute their knowledge on the subjects
as they did research and benefited from previous research, and they took part in the learning
process actively in both in-class and out-of-class discussions.

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