FORMING A STUDY GROUP

Most students at one time or another find that studying with other students in a particular class is a useful addition to their collection of study techniques. Stome try study groups in response to the feeling of being unable to make progress alone. Others know that they are better able to stay on task when they are working in a group. Whatever the reason for trying a study group for the first time, most students eventually realize that pooling two or three different viewpoints yields a better understanding of a topic in a shorter period of time than studying entirely independently. Indeed, “No one is smarter than all of us,” but this is not to say that all study groups are successful. The following tips are worth considering when trying to set up and get the most out of a group studying situation:

1. Group study sessions should augment individual studying rather than supplanting it. All group members should agree to come to the group sessions prepared with specific questions about what they could not decipher alone. Avoid the “pooling of ignorance” syndrome that is common if everyone arrives unprepared.

2. Individual preparation also decreases the likelihood that the group will run out of time before reaching the more involved and subtle parts of the material where multiple perspectives are most valuable.

3. Group study should be relatively frequent- not just immediately prior to examinations. As with other social groups, it takes time for members of the group to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and to establish and refine a system for working together. Two or three times per week is probably a reasonable starting point.

4. The schedule for each study group should be firm and established early. If you have not set aside regular times for the group it will be harder and harder to find common time as the semester progresses. Regularly scheduled times allow for scheduling other commitments around the group study times.

5. The size of study groups varies, but in general should be relatively small. If you are in a group of three you should be speaking about a third of the time on average. In a group of ten…

6. Choose the members of your group carefully. Power struggles, petty jealousies, pet peeves and the like can destroy the effectiveness of a group. As one tutor put it, it helps to know the difference between a study partner and a friend.

7. All the members of a group need to be ACTIVELY involved in the sessions. If this is not the case, the uninvolved person is wasting time and the others are losing the benefit of that person’s perspective on the material.

8. Structure the group’s time in such a way that it is clear to everyone when the group is to be focused on study and when it is appropriate to socialize. Efficiency and effectiveness in the use of group study time is just as important as it is with personal study time.