Group study is an excuse that most of us have used to hang out with friends before an exam.
MOM: Where are you going?
ME: For a group study
MOM: Where were you for so long?
ME: We were studying together!
MOM: You have been spending a lot of time on your computer.
ME: I’m a part of a study group online.
Do these conversations sound familiar? While group study is often considered unproductive by teachers and parents, it can be a very useful study tool when used properly.
In this article, we are going to discuss the benefits of group study and understand the best way to study in a group. We will also be talking about online study groups and share some tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your group study sessions.
What is a Study Group?
A study group typically refers to a group of people who meet up regularly to discuss or study similar subjects. Study groups are very common among high school and college students who meet up before exams to study or revise various topics related to their subject, however study groups are not limited to such setups. Sometimes, a study group setting can also be found within companies and corporations where co-workers come together to discuss various projects.
Each study group is different and consists of members of different capabilities and learning speed. The abilities and competencies of each member must be considered before deciding upon the topics and portions to be covered and the speed at which these will be covered.
Oftentimes, in many such study groups, a leader, who is actively studying the topic at present leads the discussion and guides or mentors the rest of the students. The benefit of such a process is that the leader is able to revise and recollect the topics already learnt whereas the students can benefit from the knowledge passed on to them. Sounds effective, right?
There’s no fixed number of students required for a study group. A college or high school level group study consists of five to twenty students. The number decreases at a professional level. Students who find it extremely difficult to focus in a large group setting can benefit from group study sessions where the size of students is typically smaller.
So, why are such study groups useful?
Well, one of the problems that most students face when they sit down to study is procrastination. Group studies counter this problem by making students accountable to each other. Topics for the group study are decided in advance and it’s impossible to procrastinate when the entire group is making progress with learning.
Another problem that students face is in understanding the concepts well during a particular lecture. This problem is also tackled through study groups. Questions that students find tough to ask in class or to the teacher can be taken up in these study sessions.
All in all, study sessions are an extremely fun and effective way to study, especially during exams, provided you focus on the study aspect as well and not just the fun part of it. Moving on, let’s discuss some more advantages of studying together in a group.
Why are study groups so effective (backed by research)?
A popular research on group study by Washington University professor Keith Sawyer revealed that the conversations that happen in a study group help the students absorb the material as opposed to sitting with the textbook alone and trying to cram up a topic.
He quoted, “Study groups are so effective because they provide a way for students to make the lecture notes their own. When students hear the voice of the professor and are taking notes, they are so busy writing that it’s hard for them to really absorb the material. What happens in the study group setting is that through these interaction dynamics that we identified, students could absorb the lecture notes and make them their own.”
What are the benefits of Group Study?
Group studies have an array of benefits to offer to students. From being a more fun and integrating process, to providing students with a sense of accountability, the benefits of group studies are endless.
So, the next time your mom prevents you from going to a group study, stating that it’s just a waste of time, you can present her with some of the points mentioned below (given that you are actually committed to making the best use of your study time).
1. Beat procrastination
Sometimes, procrastination can be your greatest enemy. You may have the skills, the resources and the time to study, but may find yourself procrastinating and putting things off until the last hour when you have no choice but to study.
I have done this multiple times, when I don’t study a particular subject until the last minute. I even say stuff like “I work best under pressure” or “It is a theory subject, there is no point studying so early, I’m going to forget it in a few days” and so on. And with hindsight, I can say that putting off studies until the very last is a bad idea. Because the truth is that no one really works their best under pressure in the long term. In fact, there are chances of cracking up like an egg when under the stress and pressure of the last hour.
Group studies help you beat procrastination. Each study session has a set agenda or a portion of syllabus to cover and that way, you cannot skip a particular topic or subject entirely. It enables you to develop a sense of accountability towards yourself and towards others in the group, thus ensuring maximum utilisation of the given time and resources to boost your results.
2. Gain a wider understanding of the subject
As mentioned earlier, study groups usually cover a topic or subject that is decided before the session itself and each student comes prepared with the same. Group study sessions enable the students to gain a wider and deeper understanding of the subject through effective debates and discussions. Also, as different students prepare individually before the session and share their learning with the group during the study sessions, it enables them to gain different perspectives and viewpoints of the same topic.
3. Become a team player
The future of work is going to be collaborative to a great extent. Employers seek candidates who are team players and those who can work comfortably in groups. Group study sessions consist of various students from different backgrounds and different learning capacities. A group may have some slow learners and the rest will have to learn to deal with it. Students who prefer to work and study solo will have to adapt to the group setting. Different people have different ways or methods of learning. Someone may be an oratory learner while someone may be more of an observer or listener. A particular student may prefer walking around while studying while someone else might prefer having a designated seating space to work from. Group studies enable its members to become team players and work together as a group.
4. Aid in self-discovery
Sometimes, group studies can also aid in self-discovery. Different students have different study patterns and habits. Similarly, people also have different timings during which they are most productive. You may be a morning person or a night owl. You may be a visual learner or an oratory learner or someone who learns from practical experiences. You may be good at researching but not presenting. So group studies help you by getting inspired by study patterns/habits of other students and improve upon your weak spots. It also helps you identify your best study patterns/habits that you can share with other students.
5. Change in study environment
I’m sure most of you are bored with the typical classroom setting with a blackboard and whitewashed walls. With study groups, you can choose the location of your choice. It could be your friend’s house or a nearby cafe. Just make sure the place isn’t too noisy or crowded. You could also ask any member of the faculty for access to unused conference rooms and or classrooms for conducting your study sessions.
6. A tool to revise before the exams
Even if you have completed your syllabus for the upcoming exam, group studies are an excellent tool to revise the same. By teaching others, you can brush up the topics that you’ve already studied while at the same time, helping colleagues or classmates with their studies. Group studies also enable you to gain well-rounded insights into the topic by understanding the viewpoints of the other students or members of the group. The things discussed in the group setting are easier to recall as they are better stored in memory as a meaningful conversation, as compared to a certain boring piece of information from your book.
What is the best way to study in a group?
Often, my parents would discourage me from attending study group sessions because of the fact that we would spend a lot of time gossiping, eating and procrastinating rather than actually studying. This was true until I improved my group studying technique and now I know that study sessions can be extremely productive and enriching.
It is very important to find the perfect group to study with. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to study groups. Different people have different learning styles and different speeds at which they learn. So, it is important to find a group which is at the same pace as you and have similar learning styles.
Try to stay away from people who are always distracted, as they might disrupt the flow of the session. It is also important to form groups with whom you are compatible and make sure that your productivity is increasing and not decreasing when you decide to study in a group. It is also important that each member reviews the topics to be covered before coming to the session for a more productive and smooth sailing and uninterrupted session. Ask questions, even if it may sound silly in your head. Clarify all your doubts before moving onto the next topic.
These study sessions may be conducted face to face, at a preferred location or can also be conducted online. We will be talking about online study sessions in the upcoming segment.
Online Study Groups
Online study groups are just as effective as any other classes and students can learn from the comfort of their homes. For online study groups, you will have to decide what medium or platform you will use to meet. You must also decide on the time and the duration of such meets.
Just like a traditional study group, different members will have different roles to play and the topic of discussion must be decided in advance. You will have to set the ground rules and limit off topic chats in the chat box.
There are various tools and options available to host these online study sessions. Apps such as ThinkBinder allow students to share notes, links and videos while allowing them to communicate through text boxes and video chat. Google also has different tools such as google classroom which allow students to share notes and assignments.
Youtube study sessions such as ‘Study With Me’ sessions also connect students across the globe by providing a platform to come and study together.
Group Study Tips To Help You Get Started
Listed below are some tips and tricks to make the most out of your group study sessions:
1. Find your tribe
As mentioned earlier, different people have different learning capacities. You may be a fast learner, but someone in the group who is slower than the rest can reduce the pace of the entire group. Similarly, different people have different hours of the day during which they are the most effective. Someone can wake up feeling motivated and energised to study, while someone else might prefer staying up late at night to study. It is important to find a group with similar wavelength to maximise your productivity.
2. Show up prepared
It is important that each and every member of the group does some research and shows up prepared for the session. This will increase productivity and lead to a wider understanding of the subject as discussions and exchange of information will allow the members to learn from the different perspectives and viewpoints.
3. Choose an ideal study format
For a group study to be more effective, it is important to know in advance the topics to be covered and the order in which they will be discussed. Pick up appropriate formats of the study. The group must decide whether the session is to discuss and debate upon topics or to answer textbook questions or to discuss results from a mock test.
4. Pick an ideal location
One major advantage of group study sessions is that you can meet up in a location that is different from the boring setting of a classroom. Students can meet up in a park or a cafe and discuss the subject over a cup of coffee. Or you could meet up at a friend’s place. Whatever the location is, just make sure that it isn’t too crowded and noisy. A clean and peaceful environment is always more productive.
5. Take adequate breaks in between
Just as it is important to study, it is equally important to take breaks or breezers in between to cool off. It is during these break sessions that all that was discussed during the session gets stored in the mind. I would suggest you follow the Pomodoro technique where you work for 25 minutes and take a 5-minute break or study for 50 minutes and take a 10-minute breezer.
I hope that after reading this article, you are aware of the benefits of studying in groups and the best way to do so. However, keep in mind the tips for an effective study session. I cannot stress enough on the need to choose the ideal study group and setting goals to enhance productivity. Although it is harmless to have some amount of fun with friends while studying, keep in mind the purpose and objective of such study groups. Happy studying!