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Informal Cooperative Structures

Informal Cooperative Learning

Johnson, Johnson and Smith (2006) explain the purposes of informal cooperative groups are:

to focus student attention on the material to be learned, set a mood conducive to learning, help organize in advance the material to be covered in a class session, ensure that students cognitively process the material being taught, and provide closure to an instructional session. Informal cooperative learning groups also ensure that misconceptions, incorrect understanding, and gaps in understanding are identified and corrected, and learning experiences are personalized. They may be used at any time, but are especially useful during a lecture or direct teaching.

Download and read this excerpt from Active Learning: Cooperation in the College Classroom for a summary of the limits of lecturing and many ideas for creating informal groups around different learning tasks such as reading, note-taking and explaining. Click on "Informal Cooperative Learning" above to open the videos.

Informal Cooperative Groups Explained

Below are two examples of how you can implement informal groups. One is the "Cooperative Lecture" that breaks up a typical classroom lecture, and the other is a "Coach & Player" activity that can be used within a cooperative lecture or any other time.

Cooperative Lecture

Coach & Player

Several similar pairing exercises are described in the downloadable excerpt above.


Below are some cooperative learning "structures:" activities that can be used to facilitate engagement with different structures.

  • Jigsaw
    Students divide into groups to learn content then return to home group to teach others.
  • Think-Pair-Share
    Basic but powerful cooperative structure.
  • Collaborative Writing
    Distributes work and responsibility for writing a shared product.
    (The above structures are excerpted from the excellent resource Collaborative Learning Techniques, available from our library)
  • Bumper Sticker
    Individually created but shared through gallery walk (below). Supports synthesis and formative assessment.
  • Gallery Walk (National Science Foundation)
    Structure for facilitating critical viewing and discussion of small group products.
  • Value Line
    Facilitates identifying oneself on a continuum of opinion then pairing students with different views for discussion.