If you’ve ever partaken in a study group, you can understand what I mean when I say they can easily go awry. BUT they have so much potential. They can give you a chance to process information externally by bouncing ideas and thoughts off other people and reflecting your understanding back to each other. They can allow for deeper interaction with the information and allow for some shared responsibilities when it comes to finding supplemental resources. Finally, they can create a sense of accountability so that you’re more likely to stay on top of learning material. So what can you do to prevent a study group from becoming a lopsided/tangent-going social gathering? Well, there are tons of resources available on study group tips and structures, and after sifting through a number of them – here are the bare bones of a good study group (and the link to a short resource that I highly recommend):
- 3-4 members, no more than 5.
- You need one of these, it doesn’t have to be the same person every time but this is a point person for facilitating meetings and keeping the group on task.
- Decide how often and for how long you want to meet (at least weekly is recommended).
- Create a general agenda for how much time will be spent on various parts of each meeting. For example, you could start by reviewing the previous week’s concepts/problems for 30 minutes, then spend and hour on working through problems, concepts, or questions in a pre-determined order, or you could have individual group members take turns “teaching” concepts or themes and then discuss further, and finally conclude with a 10 minute recap of the meeting and overview of what should happen for the next one).
- Decide what you want to cover – and how (including who is responsible for what) – for each meeting.
If you don’t read Duke University’s resource on study groups yourself (it’s short, just two pages), here is an excerpt that you should really consider;
It’s easy to want to focus on homework problems, in other words,
application type sessions, but you’ll be ignoring a key component involved in
truly understanding your material – identifying and understanding the concepts
underlying homework and/or exam questions. This is a great opportunity to
tackle as a group! Here are some suggestions:
-Divide the two or three lectures that you have per week among the group
members. Each ‘subgroup’ then summarizes the key concepts covered in
their chosen lecture and creates a one page summary for each group member.
-You can choose to review these concepts at the start of each group session
as a whole, or each ‘subgroups’ can teach/present the concepts covered in
their lecture to the group for subsequent review and discussion.
This is a short list for creating a good foundation for a study group. The other side to group work, whether study group or group projects, is along the lines of interpersonal relations, and I’ll have some thoughts to share on that fun topic next week.