In the following section, two different perspectives to understand the why and how of learning with others will be presented. These include:
1. What are the benefits of group work?
2. Study Groups
1. What are the benefits of group work?
“More hands make for lighter work.”
“Two heads are better than one.”
“The more the merrier.”
Groups have the potential to be more productive, creative and motivated than individuals on their own.
Benefits for learners
Group projects can help learners develop skills that are increasingly important in the professional world. Properly structured, group projects can reinforce skills that are relevant to both group and individual work, including the ability to:
Group projects can also help learners develop skills specific to collaborative efforts, allowing them to…
With whom could you form a work group and on what topics?
2. Study Groups
Studying with other people helps you personalize and interact with the material. This is much more difficult to do independently.
Studying in a group gives you the opportunity to figure out what you don’t know—and what you do know. This allows you to TARGET your remaining study time on topics you are not so familiar with, thereby making your studying more efficient and saving you time in the long run.
Creating an Effective Study Group
1. Don’t make the group too big; a group of three or four is ideal.
2. Designate a moderator to keep you on schedule. The moderator role can rotate from one meeting to the next.
3. Decide the topics you are going to discuss BEFORE meeting. All members should commit to preparing that material PRIOR to meeting. Don’t take on too much material for each individual session.
4. Schedule a SPECIFIC time period for your study group (e.g., 1.5 hours) before meeting; it is the moderator’s responsibility to keep to that time. This will prevent the session from dragging on—and you feeling your valuable (study) time has been wasted.
5. Each learner should thoroughly PREPARE and identify key points and areas of discussion within the material to be covered in the group.
6. Discuss and quiz each other on the material. Treat this like an oral exam. Come into the group well prepared but be ready to identify areas that you do not understand.
7. Teach others material you understand, and learn from others who understand material better than you do. When you teach someone else material, you have to know it in much more depth, and you will find it solidifies your knowledge. You may even surprise yourself with how much you know.
8. Try to make learning enjoyable in whatever way you can. Since you will spend a lot of time studying, you need to keep things interesting. Consider crowning a session “guru” every time you meet. This is the person who has been able to ace key material and explain it well to others during the session. You might even exchange gag gifts.
So, how do you as an individual get the most out of the group? Each learner should go in with three goals:
1. Create a list of what you DON’T KNOW YET (material you need to spend more time learning). Once you know where your weak areas lie, you can spend more time studying these topics. After the study group meets, you should develop an action plan and schedule enough time to study these topics.
2. Determine what you already know well. Often these will be the topics you will help teach others. It’s important to identify objectively what you know well so you can spend your time wisely on topics that you don’t know. Of course, you will review all the material before the exam, so don’t worry that you won’t be prepared.
3. Personalize and interact with the material. This is much more difficult to do independently, and is best done by interacting with others. What is meant by “personalizing” the material? You are much more likely to memorise information when you make it your own.
If you simply read the pages in a textbook over and over, you are not so likely to learn as if
• you take your own notes (personalizing),
• review your notes (personalizing),
• quiz yourself on the information (interacting),
• have others quiz you on the material (interacting), and
• teach or learn from others (personalizing and interacting).
Adding study groups to your learning strategies can deliver great results—not only in better test scores but also, and perhaps more importantly, in the ability to retain information and apply it in the real world.
Benefits of Study Groups
Many learners enjoy the benefits of study groups. Depending on the members and atmosphere, study groups can be either help a learner grow or can pull one down.
The potential advantages of joining a study group are:
1. Procrastination Solution
Because study groups meet at regular times, attending learners cannot procrastinate. If alone, a learner might postpone studying. When in a study group, however, students have to be present at a specific time, and they are not able to procrastinate (unless they skip the study group completely). If you struggle with procrastination, a study group might just be the solution for you!
2. Learn Faster
Working together, students in study groups can generally learn faster than students working alone. For instance, some part of a book that may seem completely confusing to you could be quite clear to someone else. In a study group, instead of spending valuable time puzzling over the difficulty, you can learn quickly by simply asking a question. In addition, you can help your fellow learners when they have difficulties understanding something that you do understand.
3. Get New Perspectives
If you study by yourself, you will always see your material from the same perspective – yours. While this may not be a problem, getting fresh perspectives on a topic can help you learn it more thoroughly. Study groups are the perfect places to find these new perspectives. As you listen and ask questions, you will soon start noticing a wide variety of different viewpoint on the same idea. This will force you to think more about your position and will, therefore, develop your critical thinking skills while helping you study.
4. Learn New Study Skills
In addition to learning new perspectives on a topic, you can also find new study techniques. Each person develops their own particular study methods. While yours may work excellently, you probably can still find ways to improve your learning abilities and sharpen your mind. By joining a study group, you will have opportunity to observe a wide variety of study methods in action. After considering the pros and cons, you can improve your own study regimen by incorporating the best methods with your own. In addition, you can help your other study members improve by sharing your favorite study tricks also.
5. Breaks The Monotony
Studying by yourself, especially for long periods of time, can become a monotonous activity. However, by joining a study group, you can break this monotony and learn faster! Because of the social aspect of a study group, you will always have someone to discuss the topic with when you start struggling or find the topic tedious. In addition, the auditory factor of study groups can help auditory learners and students who dislike the silence of studying alone. If you find some class particularly tedious, consider joining a study group to make it more enjoyable.
6. Fill in Learning Gaps
Study groups provide an excellent opportunity to fill in gaps in your notes. By comparing notes with other students, you can evaluate your accuracy, fix any errors, and get ideas for better note taking. If, on the other hand, you are a great note taker, you can help other students who had note taking problems fix their mistakes and learn better techniques.
7. Practice for the “Real World
Working with your peers in a study group gives you an excellent opportunity to hone your people skills. In real-life you will often find yourself working with colleagues on projects in a very similar group dynamic. If you come across a difficult situation in your study group, you can use it to practice your collaboration abilities.
Before you go and join a study group, remember that all groups are not created equal. Choose your peers carefully or study by yourself.
What are the key benefits of a study group for you? How will you set it up?