Promoting Study Groups

This week I would like to talk about study groups. As an introvert, I prefer to study and work by myself. When I’ve had to participate in study groups, I haven’t found them to be very useful. Most of the time the group generally ends up discussing everything but the subject we were supposed to “study.”

However, I’ve been reading quite a bit lately about how different the millennial generation is and how social they are, so I’m thinking about encouraging study groups in my courses this semester. If I want them to be productive, I think I’m going to have to give the students some guidelines, so that these groups actually, you know, study.

As mentioned last week, my first source for information was http://www.facultyfocus.com where I found the “Helping Students Understand the Benefits of Study Groups” by Dr. Maryellen Weimer. This article provides tips on how instructors can encourage and support the idea of study groups without having to facilitate them. Dr. Weimer advises that faculty promote study groups but make them an option. This was a very important point for me because I don’t want to mandate that students study in a group if they actually study better by themselves.

Other tips include demonstrating the value of study groups and offering proof that students who study in groups score better on the assignments and exams. This is hard to do if you’re like me and have never used study groups in your classes. However, once you collect the data, it will hopefully provide you with the information you need to demonstrate their value to your students.

The last tip was the most helpful to me. It suggests that faculty define study groups very broadly. I was only aware of one type of study group – students who gathered together to study for an exam. However, students can form several types of groups depending on the purpose and task. Cuseo (2003) identifies four different types of study groups:
1. Test review – Instead of being used just to study for a test, this type of group meets to analyze and discuss test results after a test. They can compare their answers and discover why they made the errors that they made.
2. Note-taking – These groups generally work best if they meet right after a class. They compare and discuss the class and their notes to make sure that they have everything they need and understand the material.
3. Research – This group meets to find, evaluate, and take notes on material that may be needed for projects and/or reports.
4. Reading – This group meets to discuss the assigned readings.

Beyond promoting the idea of study groups in the class syllabus, I haven’t decided on how to promote and teach the students how to use study groups effectively. I would like to show them the various types and their purposes in class, so I may design some activities where students can create a study group – maybe after a quiz or reading assignment – and teach them how to analyze the quiz or reading together to improve their learning.

Have any of you tried study groups with your students? Were they successful? If so, what did you do to facilitate this success?

Cueso, J. (2003). Academic-support strategies for promoting student retention and
achievement during the First Year of College. University of Ulster Office of Student Transition and Retention.

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