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Base Groups

Base groups are long term heterogeneous cooperative learning groups with stable membership whose primary responsibilities are to provide support, encouragement and assistance in completing assignments and holding each other accountable for striving to learn. (Johnson, Johnson and Smith, Active learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom, 2006)

Typically, cooperative base groups:

  • are heterogeneous in membership (especially in terms of achievement motivation and task orientation),
  • meet regularly (for example, daily or biweekly), and
  • last for the duration of the class (a semester or year) or preferably until the students are graduated.

Much like a student learning community, base groups serve as a support and accountability mechanism for students. Read an excerpt from Active Learning:Active learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom,

Benefits of Base Groups

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How do you create, guide and manage base groups?

Using a Base Group Grid

A "base group grid" is a checklist or set of questions that can guide students in base group conversations. Base groups can serve to facilitate social interaction and cohesion as well as support academic achievement and accountability. The "grid" can function as a support tool for conversations focusing on academic accountability. These can even be collected and reviewed by faculty to learn which students might be facing challenges. Below is an explanation of base groups from a recent SCALE-led workshop.

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Use the SCALE-created Base Group Grid template as a starting place for designing your base group interactions. Customize it to address the factors you feel are most important for your students and course. Use the activity below to identify what is most important to you.

Rank order the following purposes of cooperative base groups from most important ("1") to least important ("8") to YOU.


Academic Achievement


Positive Relationships With Other Students


Psychological Health


Social Support For Efforts To Achieve Academically


Social Support For Personal Well-Being


Less Attrition and Dropping Out of College


More Positive Attitudes Toward Achievement And College


Pro-Social Sense of Meaning and Purpose In One's Life

Create reflection and discussion prompts that guide students toward your goals.

Here are some other considerations:

  • Carefully select members for good mix and match of personalities, experience strengths, etc.
  • Use a form (eg. Base Group Grid) to prompt students to reflect on key success behaviors you want them to practice. Include celebration of accomplishments or practice of good habits.
  • Encourage students to be in communication outside of class
  • Encourage adoption of a group identity. Team name, theme song, rituals, etc.
  • Frequency of base group meetings depends on length and complexity of the class
  • Consider collecting and reviewing the forms to ensure they are available and used in class
  • Base groups can meet at the start or end of class

Base Groups for Professional Development

Do you have a faculty group that meets to discuss aspects of teaching and learning? Base groups can be a model for support groups in a professional context. Form a faculty base group to share your experiences. Use this example "Faculty Base Group Grid" to get started.