This is a fair question! One that millions of high school and college students struggle with routinely. When you think about how long our “academic careers” can be, just about everyone has had some type of educational experience with study-groups (whether negative or positive). I have personally experienced both the negative and positive sides of study-group learning.
Fortunately for most learners, the positive experiences they receive through study-group learning far exceed any poor outcomes that might occur. However, those poor experiences can be reduced greatly, which we will also be discussing.
Let me start with the fact that just about every Institution of Higher Education recognizes the value of study-group learning and the significant role it plays in “Supplemental Instruction” by helping students of all types successfully grasp new and challenging academic concepts. Universities spend millions of dollars on ways to help students become academically successful; but why? Once you have paid your tuition and purchased your books, they’ve got your money right? Shouldn’t it be the learner’s responsibility to learn? Those are interesting rhetorical questions.
Most Universities and Colleges provide students with many of following resources and assistance:
Academic Support Services or Student Learning Centers
- Free and Fee Based Tutoring Services
- Writing Centers
- Assistance with Math, Science and Language Courses
- Course Reviews
- Supplemental Instruction (SI Sessions a.k.a. Study-Groups)
- Academic Skills Tutoring
- Online Assistance
- Meeting/Study Rooms
Learning Institutions want and need students to be highly successful. They promote the use of study-groups or what they call “SI Services” because generally speaking;
- Students tend to be more academically successful when they use study-groups.
- Study groups provide the opportunity for students to work with people who have diverse backgrounds and different learning styles.
- Successful students are less likely to drop-out and tend complete their academic goals
“Our analysis of small-group learning procedures suggests that greater time spent working in groups leads to more favorable attitudes among students in general and that even minimal group work can have positive effects on student achievement.” Springer, L., Stanne, M.E., Donovan, S.S., “Effects of Small-Group Learning on Undergraduates in Science, Mathematics, Engineering, and Technology: A Meta-Analysis, Review of Educational Research, Spring 1999, Vol 69, No. 1, pp. 21-51. http://teaching.berkeley.edu/docs/study_groups.pdf
In fact, many Professors and Instructors have taken this learning concept and began implementing it directly into their course curriculum. Using what is also known as “Team-Based-Learning” approaches to begin producing highly effective classroom learning environments that are less focused on lecture and more focused on student-centric learning.
Well you might be asking yourself, why would deciding to form or join a study group be such a tough decision for some learners? What are the “negative” things that learners might experience with study-groups and how can they be avoided?
- Unless you personally know your fellow classmates, it can sometimes feel like an overwhelming or intimidating task to form or join a study-group.
- Not knowing your potential member’s academic goals, strengths and weakness can present issues.
- Dealing with people who have different “quirks”; poor study habits; individuals who are simply unreliable; “won’t pull their weight” and/or just want to socialize, can be a serious problem.
Here are some tips to avoid study-group pitfalls:
- Remember that one element of creating a successful study-group is building educational-relationships. Work on creating an educational network with other learners. This should make starting or joining study-groups easier and far less intimidating.
- Be sure to learn what your potential study-group member’s academic goals are and if they match yours. For example, why would they like to participate in a study-group?
- Test preparation; Special class projects; Individual course understanding; To improve their grades.
- Where, when, how often and how long would they like to meet and study?
- Try to find out what your group member’s study-skills; strengths & weaknesses may be (i.e. note taking, presentation, writing, and organizational skills).
- The final thing to keep in mind is that study-groups can be fun, exciting and frustrating. This is simply because everyone learns and communicates in different ways. However, these are also the very reasons that ultimately make group-study highly effective and successful.
This is why you should start a study-group!