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What Is a Study Group? (Module 9 of 9)

A study group is a group of people in the same program who get together to study or work on class material. They might meet every week, or just before tests and exams. In this module, you can discover how to have your own study group, and some study strategies to help you get the most out of it.

Why Study in Groups?

There are a lot of benefits to studying with other people, including the following:

  • You can help each other understand material.People understand and explain material differently. Your group members might be able to explain a concept in a way that makes more sense to you, or share a trick to remember information.
  • You might learn better in a group. Some people understand and remember information better when they can talk about it with other people.
  • It forces you to stay on top of your material.At the very least, you are committing to studying with your group. Depending on the structure of your meeting, you may need to catch up on readings or notes before you meet in order to contribute.
  • You can build friendships.It’s a chance to get together with people in your program and form relationships.

How Do We Run a Study Group?

Watch the video and read the information below for some strategies to help you create an effective study group.

What do you want to get out of your study group? Possible goals include:

  • Preparing for a test/midterm/assignment
  • Getting a good mark in the class
  • Being social and having a good time
  • Helping each other understand class material
  • Sharing ideas and study tips
  • Cutting down on study time

There are two basic approaches to study groups. You can choose how to approach studying based on the needs of your group.

Informal Study Groups: The group meets and either goes through class material or reviews questions. (Easy! Just get together with your notes)

  • Advantage: There isn’t much preparation involved, which makes it the easier option. You can show up to the group meeting with your notes and begin sharing your ideas and knowledge.
  • Disadvantage:Since you won’t know what you’ll be discussing ahead of time, you may not be prepared to help one another or you may give incorrect information.

Structured Study Groups: You and your group decide what you would like to go over in advance so that you can prepare. The group may even assign tasks or parts of the material for each person to be the “expert.” (Harder! - More work is required before you meet)

  • Advantage:It is more productive. Everyone is prepared and everyone makes a contribution. You can tackle topics that you are struggling with because you have time to prepare.
  • Disadvantage:It requires more effort. This makes it a bit harder to do.

When different people work together, they can all contribute in different ways. People have different strengths and skills that they bring to a group, and they can fill different roles that match their skills. These roles, such as Facilitator, Innovator, or Resource Gatherer, work together to help the group succeed. You can learn more about some different roles in a group in the Group Roles tab.

When you decide to form a study group, begin by planning how you would like the study group to run. Decide on the following things with your group members:

  • Establish your goals:
    What do you want to get out of the sessions? Do you want to meet occasionally to prepare for quizzes, or more regularly to work through questions you have about class material?
  • Determine how to approach the material:
    Will you be learning new material, or reviewing the material from class? Will you come up with study questions? Will the group be informal or structured?
  • Decide how the group will be coordinated:
    You can assign someone the task of coordinating, or get together to divide the work. Make sure that everyone has something to do.
  • Pick when and where to meet:
    Think about where you will work best (avoid noise and distractions). Remember to bring everything you need for studying. If you're meeting online, talk about what tool you'll use to meet.
  • Figure out how you’ll avoid being distracted:
    You might plan to take breaks, schedule something social afterwards, or have one group member in charge of keeping the group on task.

You can use this Planning Your Study Group checklist - opens in a new window to help you form your study group.

Study Strategies

In study groups, you can use the fact that you are working with others to your advantage. There are some study activities that you need other people for! Here are some study techniques that you can use with your group.

Have each person come up with study questions from class notes or the textbook. You can also use a test review or the questions in a textbook. Once your group has come up with questions, you can all use them to come up with your own answers. For example, if you have an upcoming anatomy test, you can try to figure out what questions are most likely to appear on the test.

Come up with a list of terms or key concepts. Then, take turns having people summarize each term or concept in their own words.

You can even turn this into a game. Have each person write down what they think the definition of a term is, then have one person read the actual definition.

Games are a good way to make studying a bit more fun. Here are examples of the types of games you can come up with to help you remember information:

  • Matching terms and definitions: For example, write the names of terms on one set of note cards, and the definitions on another set. Scramble up the cards, and try to match the terms with the correct definitions. You can also do this online using Quizlet - open in a new window.
  • Speed labelling: For example, if you’re trying to remember the names of bones in a human body, look at the image of a skeleton and try to label the different bones as fast as you can. You can create your own diagram game online using Quizlet - open in a new window.
  • “Quiz Show” or Jeopardy: You can use note cards or an online tool to build your own game show. Take turns as the host and ask each other questions to score points. Here are some online tools you can use to create your own games:
  • Existing online games and apps: There are many existing apps and websites that are designed to help students learn and remember information. Search online and in your phone’s app store to see if you can find something for your topic.

On campus, you can make use of a range of resources, such as those that follow, to help you study:

  • Whiteboards: Brainstorm or map out concepts with your group, (e.g. make flow charts to show how concepts are connected). You can find whiteboards in the Library and in some meeting spaces on campus.
  • TV monitors: View images on-screen so you can discuss them (e.g. work through a process or name the parts of a diagram). You can find whiteboards in the Library and in some meeting spaces on campus.
  • Lab space: Go over hands-on skills (e.g. practice something you learned in class).
  • Meeting rooms: Ensure you have the space to study together and you can talk without disturbing others by using a meeting room.

Figure out what concepts group members are having trouble remembering. Divide these concepts up and have each person come up with a memory tool, a song, a rhyme, etc. to remember the idea. Share your tools with the group. For example, are you having trouble remembering the names of essential amino acids? Try an acronym (like PVT. TIM HALL) to remember. For help, check out the module on Memorizing and Understanding Concepts.

People have different strengths and skills that they bring to a group, and they can fill different roles that match their skills. Read more about the different types of roles in a study group below so you can figure out how you and other members can contribute.

  • Coach:
    • Person-oriented leader.
    • Coordinates resources and people
    • Recognizes people’s strengths and how they can be used
    • Tries to make sure everyone works well together
  • Facilitator/Gate Keeper:
    • Strong desire to achieve objectives and impatient with lack of progress
    • Breaks goals down into manageable tasks
    • Shapes the direction of the group activities
    • Keeps the group on-task and avoids getting off –topic
  • Innovator:
    • Creative and imaginative
    • Concerned with the big picture rather than the details
    • Comes up with ideas to help the group solve problems
    • Thinks and does things “outside the box”
  • Troubleshooter / Challenger:
    • Uses logic and thinks things over
    • Looks at potential flaws or problems with ideas
    • Considers alternative perspectives
  • Researcher / Resource Gatherer:
    • Goes outside the team to bring in ideas and information
    • Good at finding and using other resources
    • Provides the facts needed to evaluate ideas, and solve problems
    • Enthusiastic about new ideas
  • Helper:
    • Works well with different group members
    • Likeable, diplomatic, and supportive
    • Helps the team agree on ideas, and keeps the group motivated
    • Offers help to group members that need it
  • Perfectionist:
    • Has high standards for themselves and others
    • Is concerned with the details
    • Finishes tasks thoroughly

These roles are adapted from the following lists:

The content is available under CC BY NC SA 4.0

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