Group study is effective for a number of different purposes. These include: exam preparation, clarification of course materials, sharing of information and learning strategies, completing homework assignments and more. I find study groups to be very valuable and am hoping that they have been or will be for you as well. Below are some of the benefits I see resulting from studying with others, as well as a few suggestions for forming and conducting an effective study group.
Benefits of group study
When there is a group counting on you, you are more likely to get the job done,
- i.e., LESS PROCRASTINATION
- Group study encourages you to explain things out loud which increases confidence and comprehension of the material.
- As Aristotle wrote – “Teaching is the highest form of understanding.”
- Your interest in the subject and motivation for learning can be increased with group study.
Group study saves time because large assignments can often be broken down into more manageable tasks, which are distributed between group members.
- In other words, “Divide and conquer!”
Your group members will bring up ideas, interpretations, and study strategies you’d never thought of.
- i.e., various views = good anticipation of test questions.
- If you don’t understand something, you automatically have people to ask about it.
- Cooperative learning with others, when done properly, teaches individual responsibility for your learning and forces you to challenge your less effective study behaviours.
That’s great! But…how do I form a study group?
- Option 1: Approach classmates who you think would be good members for a study group – you don’t need to, though sometimes it’s best not to limit yourself to friends.
- Option 2: You could leave a note on the blackboard/overhead asking that interested students contact you.
- Option 3: You could pass around a sign-up sheet in class or post one outside your class door or in your residence hall.
- Option 4: You could leave a message online, such as on Canvas or the SFU group on Facebook.
- Option 5: Some combination of the above or any other way that comes to mind.
Find a regular meeting place and time, preferably a distraction-free environment.
- i.e. Not the pub!
We have come together, now how do we conduct our study group?
- You might want to pick a daily moderator to keep the group on track – someone responsible for making sure the members of the study group study. Without proper precautions, study groups can become “gripe’ groups or social groups.
- Set an agenda for your meeting – What is it that you want to accomplish during each session? How long will your meeting last?
- Decide as a group how you will make sure that all group members contribute equally to the group.
- Possible option: Determine what needs to be done and divide the work equally among group members according to topic, chapter, problems, etc.
- Make sure that quieter, shyer members get a turn. Consider having some activities where each member takes a turn speaking.
- Decide how information will be exchanged among group members: photocopies, chalkboard, orally, etc.
More specifically, during your meeting you may want to:
- Leave time during each session for brainstorming possible exam questions. Then at the next meeting, you could discuss the answers.
- Compare lecture/lab notes to ensure that each member has recorded the key concepts. If there was anything which confused all or most group members, have a representative from the group speak to a TA or professor for clarification.
- Work on any questions found at the end of a chapter in your text, book or lab manual or make up your own questions and quiz each other.
- End each session with an assignment for each group member.
A few other things to keep in mind - You collaborative learner you!
- Before forming a study group, check with your professor as to whether group study is acceptable for that particular class.
- Group study is not a substitute for learning the material yourself.
- Group study should be mutually beneficial for all members of your group – you must come prepared!
- A study group can be small (yourself and one other person) or larger, but do limit the size of your group (I suggest 6-8 members max).
- Of course I have to be cheesy and end with…Have fun and happy studying!
Thanks to Jordan Robinson, 3rd year SFU student and Learning & Writing Peer Educator, who wrote this handout, March, 2009.