Collaborative Study Groups
Students learn best when they are actively involved in the process. Researchers report that, regardless of the subject matter, students working in small groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats. Students who work in collaborative groups also appear more satisfied with their classes. (Sources: Beckman, 1990; Chickering and Gamson, 1991; Collier, 1980; Cooper and Associates, 1990)
Benefits of Study Groups
Collaborative study groups offer several benefits including:
- Many students find that working together makes studying not only more fun, but also more efficient and productive
- The collaborative effort helps to insure a commitment to studying by setting specific dates and times to study
- Knowing that others expect you to be prepared for the group serves as an incentive to structure your time and complete assignments on time
- Keeps students focused. Studying with others is more active while study alone is more passive and people often have a tendency for their mind to drift when studying alone
- Study groups provide opportunities to discuss issues and exchange perspectives
- Provides a great environment to brainstorm topics, questions or essays that might be on an exam
- Group study helps develop individual abilities to express own ideas
- Discussing concepts with others helps individuals to understand different perspectives and discover potential error in his/her thinking.
- Discussion amongst members helps clarify complex issues and/or misunderstandings
- Opportunity to share alternative ways to organize and map information
- Allows participants to share study methods and strategies
- Allows for practice of presentations to a group
- Provides opportunity to quiz each other
- Allows individuals to obtain feedback on papers he or she is working on
Establishing the Group
If there is no set study group for a class, talk with students in classes to identify those who might be interested in actively participating in a group. Also, consider asking the instructor for assistance in creating a group as he or she can circulate a sign-up sheet and suggest topics to cover in the group. Many faculty members understand the value of collaboration and often either suggest or require a study group session.
Consider limiting the group size. We recommended between 4 – 6 members. This amount gives you a few different perspectives while allowing everyone time to contribute.
It is important that expectations are set early. If expectations are established, everyone will have a good understanding of what to expect to achieve at the sessions, what to expect from each other, and what is expected from each individual.
At the First Study Session:
- discuss everyone’s expectations of the sessions (i.e. what they hope to get out of the sessions)
- determine goals for the study group
- ask for a commitment to attend future sessions
- Discuss how long you will meet each time and how often you will meet (we recommend about one hour for each session and having a session once a week)
- Set a schedule for regular meetings (i.e. weekly). This will help ensure that the group becomes a habit.
- Discuss what days of the week and what times are best
- Discuss topics the group might address
- Discuss types of activities you might do (e.g. exam preparation)
- Discuss need for everyone to come prepared and organized to the session