Study-groups can be a great way to learn. They provide an opportunity to gain different perspectives and interpretations and to discuss your views on a topic. They can also be a way to share the workload e.g. if there is a lot of reading associated with the course. Click on the headings below to find out more about how you can use study-groups and how to go about setting one up.
Benefits of using study-groups
- Learn from one another’s insights & understanding
- Get different perspectives and interpretations
- Discuss your views about the course
- Share the workload
- Discuss learning approaches and strategies
- Provides opportunities to teach and to explain which helps to deepen your learning
- Provides feedback about your understanding
- Gives you the opportunity to practice important teamwork skills
- Helps avoid procrastination
- Moral support – working with others is more fun and more motivating
How to use a study group
There are no defined rules about study-groups but the suggestions below can help you organise and run one.
Starting a study-group
- Students on same course of study
- Usually 3-4 students – if too few and someone doesn’t show up, group can still meet; too many and some may slack off
- Get to know your classmates – talk before/after class and ask to join you in studying
- Ask the lecturer to announce that interested students stay after class
Structuring a study-group
- Time availability – when all members available to meet on a regular basis
- Decide when, where, how often and how long to meet
- Decide an agenda for discussion at each meeting – this could be formal where group decides at end of each session and members prepare for next session or could be informal where group decides at start of each session what the group will study
Activities for study-groups
- Compare lecture notes, handouts, etc. as guides for topics to discuss
- Ask each other questions
- Create and revise summary sheets or mind maps on various topics
- Discuss assigned readings – Did everyone understand? What are the main points? Author’s argument? Differing interpretations? Anything particularly important, puzzling, difficult?
- Share reading – divide the reading, summarise and let others know what is important so they can decide to read it themselves
- Discuss lectures – compare notes. Do you understand? May pick up different points and combine to build a better sense of what was said
- Discuss how to cover coursework
- Projects or essays – compare feedback received from tutor/lecturer to understand what is important and how you could improve
- Brainstorm for ideas of how to approach essay/project. Share drafts for input and feedback
- Practice presentations and get feedback
- Work through set problems together or take turns creating problems to solve
- Discuss issues & concepts relevant to course – good practice for expressing them on exams
- Revision – get together to revise and practice answers to exam questions
- Create practice exams to give to each other
Where to meet
- Public area like outside lecture rooms or in the cafeteria – use only if able to focus and concentrate
- Empty classrooms – make use of the blackboard
- Study rooms in the library
Guidelines for successful study-groups
- Feedback – let others know you are paying attention and try to understand their viewpoint. Avoid critical, personal comments. Listening skills are critical.
- Avoid the study group becoming a social group – use agenda and leader if necessary
- Group members need to come prepared – have readings done, bring notes. Share responsibility.
- Avoid study group becoming a complaining session – keep it to the end of the session if it’s necessary
- Take time to organise the study group and define expectations
- Deal with any problems early so people don’t get annoyed with each other or frustrated with the group
- If the group is not working well even after some time, adapt it, seek help or if necessary drop it.
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