Let’s talk about study groups: they inspire both love and fear in the same breath. Study groups are a great way to deal with confusing concepts, share project work, and create an academic support system. However, being in one also means running the risk of seeing personalities clash and having unequal work contribution. Why should we do this again?
Aside from helping you get good grades, forming a study group will give you lots of key skills for the future, even if it feels like torture in that moment. The following are a few tips to help you get the most out of them:
Team up with new people
It’s tempting to make a study group up from close friends, but rarely is this setup effective. We’re not saying you have to avoid people you socialize with or enjoy the company of, but avoid people who will distract your studying.
Keep the group small
Avoid making the group too big. Having more brains in one place is part of the benefit of a study group, but if it’s too big, ideas and voices will soon get lost. Keep the group around three or four students.
Designate a moderator
Find someone with good organization and time management skills and let them keep you on schedule. If you feel this role of power could cause group tension, rotate the role from one meeting to the next. Depending on the task at hand, it may be beneficial to assign different roles within the group (someone in charge with keeping notes, someone to time keep, someone to type up the content, for example).
Address disagreements openly
When working with others, disagreements are inevitable, especially when people are stressed and under pressure. Try to address any issues in an open and direct way. Learning to compromise is a good skill to have academically and in life, it will also make everyone in the group feel like their issues are being addressed.
Agree on and set a time to meet
Schedule a specific time period for your study group (two hours, for example) and make sure everyone is clear on it beforehand. The sessions may drag on, or people may bail out before your work is finished unless you set a specific time scale.
Choose a good meeting space
It is crucial to find a productive space to hold your study groups in. Many campus libraries have designated meeting rooms for student groups but dorm rooms or shared spaces in halls can also work, as long as there are no distractions. If your space isn’t working because of distance, noise or distraction it’s important to seek out a better location.
At the end of your study session, reward yourself with something like a meal, a social occasion or event; this may boost morale during the session and make it more enjoyable.
Admit you don’t know
Don’t be afraid to speak up if you don’t understand a concept; pretending to know won’t help you and it won’t help your study group. Come into the group prepared and ready to identify the areas you do not understand. It could be one of your partners can explain it to you in a more accessible way. It also works vice versa, you may need to teach someone else the material, helping solidify your own knowledge of the subject.
Why Study Groups Are Good
One of the best reasons to start a study group is the ability to interact with the material. You are more likely to assimilate information if you make it your own and find a personal connection. Many find quizzing or being quizzed by others, talking about content and putting concepts into their own words a far easier way to learn than sitting alone and reading the textbook over and over.