HOW TO FORM A SUCCESSFUL STUDY GROUP
Why join a Study Group?
Study groups can be a great way to practice and apply concepts you’re learning in class and to build communication and collaboration skills that are important in the workplace. Study groups can happen face-to-face as well as remotely. As a matter of fact, study groups may be even more helpful when learning remotely as they create structure and routine for studying, keep you connected with other people, and provide opportunities to get questions answered—and help other students answer questions—outside of virtual office hours.
Benefits of a Study Group
Participation in a study group is not a substitute for individual study and reflection. However, working cooperatively with others can help to clarify and consolidate information you are trying to learn. There are several advantages to learning within a study group.
- Study groups can build on each of its participant’s strengths.
- It can help students’ study effectively due to accountability and the sharing of different ideas.
- Allows students to retain more information since the structure of a study group can give a deeper impression on the memory better than personal study.
How Can I Start a Remote Study Group?
First, you’ll need to find people in your class that are interested in participating in a study group. There are several ways to identify potential study group partners.
- Ask your instructor if they’d be willing to post an announcement or start a discussion board thread to collect names of students interested in joining a study group.
- Use the Canvas or Sakai message, discussion board, chat, or other collaborative tools active in your course site to invite students to join a study group.
- Overwhelmed by the many eager responses to join your group? Consider identifying other students willing to set up a second group.
How Should Remote Study Groups Meet?
There are various ways to convene a study group. The best approach is likely to choose a format that is easiest for all study group members to navigate and which will have the smallest learning curve. This might mean using Zoom, Google apps, Microsoft Teams, or other collaborative software that students may already have some familiarity with.
There are a lot of tools available to support communication and group work (e.g., Slack, Asana, Basecamp, etc.). While these tools can be helpful, it’s important to evaluate how essential each tool is based upon the goals of your group. The learning curve, time, and energy to become familiar with new tools may not be worth it if your team is primarily engaging in activities that does not require additional technology. In addition, a steep learning curve may make some group members less likely or able to participate. If possible, limit the number of technologies group members need to access or learn to participate.
It is important to remember each person is learning how to interact with the study group—and with remote technology. Be kind and generous when helping others navigate this learning curve. When necessary, check-in with the group and talk through technological or communication processes, so you can figure out what works for everyone.
Study group tips for getting started
How many people should be in a study group?
- 3-5 people is the best amount of people to ensure an efficient and good study group. If a study group is too large, it can become a distraction and inefficient.
How often should a study group meet?
- College students often set up study groups only during exam time. However, it is recommended that a study group should meet once a week.
How should students prepare for a study group?
- Study groups need to make a commitment to meet in individual quiet spaces where there are no distractions.
- Participants need to bring notes, writing materials, relevant tools for the course (e.g. calculator) and relevant course books. Preparing what to study and when to study should be done in advance
How important is planning for your study group?
- Planning intentionally before your group meets to study can reduce communication challenges and set your group up for success. It may be helpful to have a meeting solely focused on planning before you meet to study together.
- During your planning meeting you should discuss the purpose, expectations, meetings days/time, how often, and ways to contact each study group member. Be sure to have someone record the answers to questions as you work, so you can share the document with all study group members and reference it in the future as a reminder of your group’s purpose and expectations for working together.
What would be a good use of our time?
One of the best things you can do to ensure the time you spend with your study group is spent well is to name specific activities for each session. We’ve all been in study groups where there was no plan and conversation, or distractions took center stage. You can avoid these pitfalls through planning. By naming activities that are manageable in the time you have, you can encourage the group to stay focused and meet the goals of each session.
Below are key actions to keep in mind when choosing activities:
- Engage in collaborative work that might be more challenging to do on your own (e.g., after a challenging reading.
- Plan to distribute tasks across the group (e.g., each person writes 3 sample test questions, and the group collects all questions so group members can test themselves).
- Focus on active learning strategies whether you’re engaged in initial learning or in reviewing and self-testing to evaluate your knowledge.
- Use technology to advance your learning. Try features like whiteboards, annotation, and polling to support your process.
How Can I be a good partner in my study group?
Learning remotely is challenging for everyone; those challenges may become more apparent when trying to coordinate a group of different people—all learning in a stressful time.
Here are some basic tenets of being a good study group partner.
- Understand that everyone has different schedules, commitments, and responsibilities.
- Recognize that everyone may not be at their best, but they are trying. Life happens. It’s so happening right now. Be willing to support and encourage each other.
- Listen carefully when other team members speak. Ask questions to be sure you understand what they have said.
- Let each person finish their full thought. We all think, speak, and pause differently. It may be helpful to develop a signal like muting a microphone when finished speaking. This can help your team avoid talking over each other.
- Notice when someone hasn’t contributed in a while. Invite them into the conversation.
- Be flexible and willing to collaborate when things get stressful or exams are coming up.
- Acknowledge that working collaboratively can be difficult and frustrating at times; work together so everyone can have a positive experience.