Now that we are well into the school year, many students will have created study timetable for themselves and have a good study routine established. For most this will be all they need to stay on top of their studies and make progress in 6th year. The highly motivated student however may be eager to engage their learning further by partaking in an effective study group. If you want to get ahead and think you are committed and disciplined enough to your studies then read on to find out how to set up an efficient study group.
What is a Study Group?
This is a small group of highly motivated students who are dedicated to succeeding at school. They meet up regularly to share and compare study notes. Each member is assigned areas of study to research and then teach to the other group members.
Benefits of being in a Study Group
Study groups provide an excellent means of comparing and sharing notes with fellow students. Through comparing notes students can fill in the information they may have missed out in class. Talking to other students about material also helps you to grasp important concepts.
In study groups you are expected to teach fellow members your assigned topic. Teaching a topic is a great study technique because in order to teach something you need to really know the topic inside out. You become an expert in this topic because the group expects you to master it. Through teaching a topic we quickly work out just how much we know (or don’t know) about the topic!
When you are involved in a study group you need to prepare your assigned topic. You will be expected to provide notes on the topic and teach the group the topic. This can be a source of motivation for students as are you are responsible for other students’ learning as well as your own. The others members in the group are relying on you to study this topic and teach it to them. Taking this responsibility seriously and showing commitment to the group can be a real driving force for many students.
Spending time with like minded students can be very supportive for students. You will feel supported in your learning and given emotional support when required. Like minded students who are as driven as you are will boost your motivation and help you to keep up the momentum throughout the year.
So now that you have learnt what a study group is and the benefits of it, how do you set one up?
How to Organise a Study Group
It is best to have a group of 4-6 members. Anything less could collapse into a social session and larger groups are difficult to manage and organise.
You need to be careful about who you invite to the group. Forming a group based on friendships isn’t usually a good idea. Instead find students who have a good work ethic and are very reliable; they complete their homework, are prepared for classes, have excellent attendance etc. Look for students who are cooperative and available – there is no point inviting the Straight-A-Student who is also preoccupied with swimming, football and organising the school charity events, they’ll never find time for a study group and they probably don’t need it. It is a good idea to find members who are on a similar educational footing and are achieving similar enough grades.
You will need to find somewhere to meet up. Study groups need to work at desks and have room to sprawl notes etc. The library may sound like a good choice but not the best one as study groups need to be able to talk. Some libraries provide breakout rooms that are available to book. This would be a good idea if you have that option. Alternatively you could meet in a coffee shop that wasn’t too busy.
It is recommended that you meet for approx 2 hours. Anything less is too short and after 2 hours concentration really starts to fade. Arrange for everyone to get to the location 10-15 minutes before the session is due to start. This will allow time for everyone to get there and for the group to have a quick catch-up session (this is unavoidable) and it means time isn’t lost from the study session.
Schedule the same time (and preferably same location) every week so it becomes part of everyone’s routine.
Create a contact list so all members have everyone’s number and email. You could set up a WhatsApp or Facebook group to keep in touch during the week. It is important to be able to contact group members in case you can’t make a session or if you are really struggling with your assigned topic.
Now that you have the rudiments in place how do you make the group successful?
How to make your group Efficient
This should be a relatively short session (about 1 hour). In this session you need to come up with a group contract –TOGETHER. The group will not function if there is someone ‘in charge’ and everyone has to abide by his/her rules. Start by identifying what the members want to get from the group. From there you should put together a list of rules/expectations of group members to ensure the group functions as intended. You might like to consider the following expectations from group members:
- Regular attendance – If unable to attend then you need a plan for how the absent member’s assigned work will be distributed to the group.
- Be Punctual.
- Come prepared – books, copies, exam papers, notes etc If assigned work this must be completed in full and be ready to share with group members.
- Equal Participation – All members must contribute to the group. Carrying passengers in the group is grossly unfair and will lead to resentment among members. Equally destructive is an overly dominant group member who takes on too much work. Try to ensure that you have equal participation.
Finally you will need to make a plan for your first study session.
Weekly Study Sessions
Each session needs to be planned carefully to maximise learning. I suggest you spend the last 15 minutes of each study session planning the next one. The group can decide together what topic/s is to be covered for the next session. Divide the work up and assign topics to group members.
Decide what you expect from each group member e.g. teach the rest of the group the topic, provide notes on topic for each member, provide mindmaps, provide sample answers from exam paper questions etc. If you are expecting group members to provide notes and sample answers how will this be distributed? Will you get everyone to bring photocopies/ email the notes/ have a group dropbox for the notes? Check out www.goconqr.com this website allows students to share mindmaps and flashcards.
Each week you will need someone to take control or chair the meeting. It’s a good idea to rotate this role. This member must ensure the following is in place to have a successful meeting:
- Group starts on time
- Group stays on task
- Timing of meeting is controlled so all students get a chance to teach their section
- Time is dedicated to planning the next meeting.
Final Word. . .
Without a doubt study groups are not for every student. It requires maturity, organisation and planning to have a successful group. However if you do get a good group of dedicated students involved in a study group it has potential to be a really powerful study technique that could give you the edge over other students. Why not give it a go?