Using Study Groups Effectively

Studying with others can be one of the best ways to master class material and ensure class success. It may be a new way for you to approach learning, so use the following information and suggestions to help plan your sessions.

WHY STUDY IN GROUPS?

Research shows that people who are in study groups succeed at a higher rate than students who study alone. The most effective learning occurs when we combine different ways of processing information.

We need hands-on direct experiences that are directly linked to examining and thinking about what’s been learned, followed by analyzing the concepts and applying them in new ways.

Study groups help us use all these ways of learning: we can do work together, raise questions and answer them, explore areas we’re unsure of, explain concepts to others, and test our understanding. We’re not isolated with our own way of thinking, we’re using all of our senses in working and interacting with others. This deepens our understanding, puts information into our long term memory, and helps us perform better on tests.


GETTING STARTED

Sometimes study groups form spontaneously and naturally. Often, you can recognize a classmate who shares your interest in the subject and your desire to succeed. You ask that person to get together to study and you make personal arrangements.

GETTING THE WORD OUT:

  • Advertise in class by putting an announcement on the chalkboard in your classroom (i.e. "Math 150B students interested in forming a study group meet in the Bertolini Dining Hall on Tuesday at 1pm").
  • Pass a list around in class to get names of interested students, along with their phone numbers and times available to meet.
  • Ask the instructor if you can make an announcement in class.
  • Go to the Tutorial Center to see if a group is forming.
  • Post a notice on classroom or hallway bulletin boards.

CHOOSING THE GROUP:

  • Look for dedicated students who ask questions in class, take notes, attend regularly.
  • Look for people who share your academic goals.
  • Look for people with whom you are comfortable.
  • Look for people with a similar life situation or challenges with whom you can pool resources. For instance, other single parents or other students who live near you.

SETTING A PLACE TO MEET:

Look for a space that is comfortable, has good lighting, and is relatively free from distraction. Try empty classrooms, the Tutorial Center, or reserve a room in either Doyle (Santa Rosa) or Mahoney (Petaluma) libraries.

THE FIRST MEETING:

Decide on a date, time and place to meet. At that first meeting, make sure that everyone agrees on the purpose of the study group. Set the ground rules for your work together:

  1.  Decide on meeting times, places and other logistics.
  2.  Decide on group goals: what do you want to accomplish together?
  3.  Agree that everyone comes on time, prepared, and uses the time as effectively as possible.
  4.  Agree to evaluate how you are doing as a group after two meetings.

USING YOUR STUDY TIME EFFECTIVELY:

To make the most of your study sessions, it is important to use a variety of techniques. It is equally important to be organized and agree on what you will do each time you get together.

Choose wisely from among the activities listed below to make your sessions valuable for everyone, and to provide structure to keep your study sessions on track.

  • Have each person bring class notes and a list of questions based on assigned reading and lecture notes.
  • Brainstorm questions to ask the instructor during the next class.
  • If there is a video related to the topic you are studying, check it out from the library and watch it together. Discuss questions and answers that come up.
  • Choose topics from the study material and assign one person to teach (explain) the topics to the rest of the group.
  • Make flash cards of information you need to know, using your own words and trade cards. This is especially helpful to drill with formulas, dates, definitions, and theories.
  • Brainstorm test questions together or have each person bring in a list of four or five possible test questions to the group session and trade off.
  • Do practice tests with time limits.
  • Use the strengths of group members (areas of knowledge and skill) to help others in their weaker areas.
  • Set your agenda for the next meeting and decide what each person needs to do to prepare for it.

MATH AND SCIENCE STUDY TIPS:

  1.  When homework is finished, go back to the last lesson in class and do the problems demonstrated in class.
  2.  Come to group with homework completed and discuss the problems as well as concepts illustrated.
  3.  Do the odd numbered problems in the book if the even numbered have been assigned for homework.
  4.  Practice making drawings which illustrate the parts of problems.
  5.  Create a new way to illustrate the concept in a three dimensional manner (i.e. a model) using everyday materials.
  6.  Practice translating math language into everyday verbal language.
  7.  Take turns explaining or demonstrating a particularly interesting or challenging problem to each other (Use a large piece of paper or a chalkboard).
  8.  Pick several problems which could be potential test questions and do them together.

WHAT ABOUT GROUP DIFFICULTIES?

 

Group members don't come prepared.

Have people clarify their goals, needs and purpose. See if you can agree that the group will work successfully if people are prepared. Decide to continue or not.

 

People tend to socialize instead of focusing on the topics.

Agree to spend the first five minutes talking about whatever is on peoples’ minds then agree to start group. Be consistent.

 

One person dominates with questions.

Decide to take turns expressing opinions or asking questions. Set a time limit or a questions limit. Be consistent.

 

People feel dissatisfied with group.

Decide to evaluate your process as a group: what works, what doesn’t. Change your format. Ask for help from the Tutorial Center Staff.

 

Some participants don't contribute.

Agree to have everyone bring in at least two questions they need help to complete. Break into groups of two and work together.

 

Nothing seems to get done.

Agree to have one person facilitate by making a list of what people want to accomplish and one person to keep time. Agree on how much time to give each item and stick to it.

 

People don't show up.

Decide if you want to continue. Find new participants who will make a commitment.