Types of Cooperative Learning Groups

There are three commonly recognized types of cooperative learning groups. Each type of group has its own purpose and application.

Informal Cooperative Learning Groups

These ad-hoc groups may be organized "on-the-fly" as an aid in direct teaching. Informal groups are particularly useful in breaking up a lecture into shorter segments interspersed with group activity. While this method leads to less time for lecture, it will increase the amount of material retained by students as well as their comfort working with each other. (Johnson, et al., 2006, p.3:10)

Formal Cooperative Learning Groups

This type of group forms the basis for most routine uses of cooperative learning. Groups are assembled for at least one class period and may stay together for several weeks working on extended projects. These groups are where students learn and become comfortable applying the different techniques of working together cooperatively. (Johnson, et al., 2006, p.2:2)

Cooperative Base Groups

Cooperative base groups are long-term, stable groups that last for at least a year made up of individuals with different aptitudes and perspectives. They provide a context in which students can support each other in academics as well as in other aspects of their lives. The group members make sure everyone is completing their work and hold each other accountable for their contributions. Implementing cooperative base groups in such a way that students meet regularly for the duration of a course completing cooperative learning tasks can provide the permanent support and caring that students need "to make academic progress and develop cognitively and socially in healthy ways." (Johnson et al., 1998 , p.10:7)


Johnson et al., 1998 , Active Learning: Cooperation in the Classroom. Interaction Book Company, Edina, MN. 328 p.

Johnson, et al., 2006, Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom. Interaction Book Company, Edina, MN.

See a complete list of references for cooperative learning