Study groups may be your saving grace in college. Study groups may be a requirement for some classes, but most of the time they are informal and established by the students in the class. Small groups are groups of 3-5 people meeting to focus on an issue. There has been a significant amount of research done on small group performance and groups of two lack power while groups of more than 5 can become unmanageable.
Small groups often out-perform individuals. They are able to generate more options when brainstorming, resulting in more ideas generated in a shorter time. Small groups can better evaluate ideas. By working with other people, you can more easily correct misinformation, bias, and erroneous assumptions. Working in small groups also provides you with encouragement, support, feedback, clarification, and help.
Some things to consider when forming a study group include:
Form study groups after a few classes. You’ll want to determine who the reliable students are before joining or forming a study group. Getting in too soon may mean you end up with a less productive group. Pay attention to who does the homework, knows the answers, participates in class, and seems to have a genuine interest in the subject matter. These are the people you want in your study group.
Keep the group small and make it diverse. A group of 3-5 people is ideal. Any more than five may make it difficult to meet or make decisions. Vary the group by gender, race, age, etc. Diversity will make for a richer decision-making process and provide a variety of viewpoints. Usually, a group leader will emerge who keeps everyone focused and keeps things on topic. It is up to each group whether to formally appoint a group leader.
Meet at a regular place and time. Setting up a regular schedule will ensure that people will be prepared for the meeting. People tend to follow through when they’ve made a commitment. Adding a study group to your schedule is a great way to make certain you’ll study. There are usually rooms available on campus to use for group work – check the library, student union, or residence hall for possibilities. You may have to reserve the room in advance, so check on it before your meeting time.
Be persistent. Don’t give up on the group. If the group is not a success, try again. Groups need to establish trust and confidence. It can take a little while to get comfortable within a group. That only comes with time. Don’t give up at the first sign of trouble. Address all group concerns with candor and kindness. Keep the group’s purpose in mind: To understand, to learn, and to help each other through the course.
Remember that you are responsible for your own work. Study groups are a way to work through difficult subject areas, but they should not become a group homework session. Unless your instructor has requested a collaborative effort, you should never hand in the same work as the rest of your group. All group members should contribute equally and be prepared for each study session.
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