Students benefit from having multiple opportunities to work within a variety of grouping structures. Flexible groups can be structured based on readiness, interest, and learner profile and can be heterogeneous or homogeneous. Used effectively, grouping of students allows for social development and provides opportunities for students to develop an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses related to a specific task or assignment while developing strategies for strengthening their weaknesses through peer modeling and assistance. Flexible grouping provides students opportunities to work in different contexts and provides teachers opportunities to observe students in different situations. Depending upon the specific task or assignment, groups may remain intact for extended periods of time or be in place for a short time within a single class meeting. In addition, teachers may vary constructing groups and allowing students freedom in choosing groups.
Five elements play a part in the success of grouping and the application of these elements sets "group work" apart from "cooperative learning." The five elements (Johnson, Johnson, and Smith, 1991) are:
- positive interdependence
- individual accountability
- face-to-face interaction
- social skills development
- group processing, including collaborative self-assessment of group work