Study groups can be a true blessing or your worst nightmare. Creating study groups may help you with a certain class or subject, but without the right guidelines or processes in place, they can end up being a disaster! My freshman year first semester I had a study group for an Astronomy class. There were things we did that worked, while other things not so much. Being a Journalism major, I have to work with multiple different people in different areas. I’ve worked in a lot of study groups and a lot of group projects so I know what works! Here are some things to think about when making the most productive study group!
Find Your Group
This may possibly be the hardest choice of your college career which is making the ultimate choice of who is going to be in your group. Although you may want to include your best friends, if you don’t study well together, I wouldn’t suggest it. Try looking at the people who sit around you, or the people you know who are good students in the class. By scoping those people out, you know they’re going to know the most information and help you get the best grades.
Keep Group To A Good Size
Another thing to think about is keeping your study group to a minimum size. Not enough people limits the knowledge from other sources you’re taking in, while too many may distract from the ultimate goal: studying and trying to get a good grade. I recommend about 3-6 people for a study group to ensure the best academic growth.
Keep Contact Information
It’s important to take down everyone’s contact information for the study group just so everyone can communicate regularly and let people know of any plan changes. Either creating a text group chat works well, a Facebook group or GroupMe are the best ways I’ve found to communicate with other people.
Create a Schedule
How often is the study group going to meet? What’s going to be discussed? What is everyone going to be working on? Creating an agenda keeps everything for the group organized, and keeps you from wasting time deciding on what to work on.
Some ideas of things to work on in study groups include:
Reviewing class notes together
Discussing unclear information
Ask questions you couldn’t in class
Working on homework
Quizzing each other to prepare for the test
Complete Study Guides
Find an Appropriate Location
Now is the time to set up the meeting location. Depending on where everyone lives, finding the easiest accessible place for everyone is key to getting the most done. You want to make sure everyone can get to the location easily and won’t put them out of the way or at a disadvantage compared to other members. You also want to think about if the space can fit everyone so they can work at their highest potential. I suggest your college library, student union, or another member’s house.
Want other places to study? Read my post on 10 Great Places To Study That Aren’t Your Bedroom.
Define The Roles Of Each Member
The best way to get the most work done is by designating roles to each member so that one person isn’t bogged down with all of the responsibilities. It shouldn’t be just one person’s job to create the agenda, provide the transportation, the location, and basically just run the whole damn thing. It should be a collective effort! If one person holds the responsibility for everything, it keeps them from getting any studying done.
Job Suggestions Include:
The Facilitator: This person is the head of the group. They will encourage participation from all members. They will divide the workload between all members equally, make sure everyone is staying on task, summarize what was learned at each session, and ensure everything on the agenda is marked off.
The Time Keeper: This person will be keeping track of time and making sure everyone is on task. They will maintain the structure of the session and communicate when it is time to move on to a different subject.
The Note-Taker: This person will be logging all the questions asked. If the group is unable to find an answer they will make a note to ask the questions at the next class. They will remind everyone who is responsible for what and mark who attends each study session. They will help make the agendas for each meeting.
Establish Ground Rules
Let all members know what your expectations of the group are so everyone is aware of what’s expected of them. Should members be attending every session? Should everyone bring five questions or topics to go over at each session? Communicate what each member is expected to do, and prepare consequences if these priorities aren’t met.
Since you’ll be working with all different kinds of people, make sure to compare notes at the beginning of each session to make sure all members are on the same page about a topic. It’s really difficult to write down every single word a professor writes down, so some people may have information you don’t have and vice versa.
Pro Tip: I remember reading somewhere that some students worked together and took notes on a Google Doc so they could all see the notes! There were four people that did it so you could see four different sets of notes, and if someone was confused about something they could discuss it or high light the question in the notes! If you’re able to use your laptops in class, this may be an idea to try!
Involve Your Professor
I always say, your professor is the key to your success! They’re the ones teaching the material and giving you the tests, so they should know the most about the subject and your grade. Always try to involve your professor as much as possible, because this shows you’re taking initiative to learn the material and they can help you on any subjects you’re confused about!
Ways to Involve your Professor Include:
Consulting them for a list of topics to discuss, practice questions or problems, or ideas to talk about when the group meets.
Going to their office hours as a group to discuss confusing material.
Invite them to the group to see if they can reteach an area of confusion and answer questions
Want more ways to make the most of your professors’ time? Read my post Taking Advantage of Your Professor’s Office Hours.
Determine the Length of Sessions
Finally, decide how long the group going to meet and when. Make sure to consider other group members’ schedules and other commitments. The group will only work best if everyone can meet at the same time! Try to meet at the same time to avoid confusion or schedule conflicts if you know a certain time is going to work for everyone.
How do you make the most of your study groups? Leave a comment below!