Working Successfully with a Study Group
Collaborative learning is a powerful way to master course material in a social setting. Experience shows that there are ways to make your study group more successful. Start by reviewing the following guidelines with your group at your first meeting. It's a good idea to have everyone in your group agree to the same things so you don't get off track later in the semester. We hope our ideas here will get you thinking of the best way to work as a group and make your collaborative learning as successful as possible.
Create a Contact List with all group members' names, phone numbers, emails, times they can be reached, etc. Make copies of the contact list and make sure each member receives one.
Investigate Study Space and decide on a productive place to meet. Keep in mind:
- Space. You should have enough room for everyone to work comfortably. Many students prefer to have a desktop or table when they're working with notes and books.
- Noise. A study group makes noise, so a quiet study area is not the best place to meet. Also, a very noisy environment can distract group members and should be avoided if possible.
- People. If there are other people sharing the space with you, it's best if they are also students working on school work. This is especially important if you're meeting at a group member's home, as children, roommates, and other family members can cause considerable distractions.
- Technology. If your group is working with a laptop, make sure your study space has a power outlet. If you'll need to access the Internet, develop handouts, transparencies, or a Power Point presentation, find out in advance where to go for these. For more ideas about technology resources, see Miya or Ann in the Center for Academic Success.
Nominate a Facilitator in your group. This person will agree to:
- Contact group members as necessary to remind them of study sessions,
- Contact the instructor with questions the group comes up with,
- Make arrangements for study space as necessary, and
- Keep the group on task by reminding group members if they get off subject or if not everyone is participating during study sessions.
Avoid Group Study Pitfalls by following these guidelines:
- Choose your study group wisely. If you are not assigned into a group, it's a good idea to pay attention to your classmates before you set up a study group. Ideal participants will be reliable (Are they in class at each session? Do they arrive on time?), prepared (Do they have their homework done when it's due? Are they able to ask questions about the material and give input in class?), cooperative, and available (Someone with no time outside of class is not going to be a productive member of a study group).
- Keep on task when you meet with your group. Personal issues or other stresses should not be discussed when you need to be working on course material.
- Set goals for your group. Do you want to cover all of a chapter before a quiz or test? Clearly state your goal and break it down so each group member has something to do to contribute. If you have a big project, give group members a chance to volunteer for work they're good at or more comfortable with. If there's something no one in the group likes to do, break it down into smaller parts so no one person is stuck with unpopular tasks.
- Communicate with each other to clarify what needs to be done, timelines, meeting places, etc. Having a facilitator who follows up with each group member helps keep everyone on track.
- Do not carry group members who don't participate. Keep documentation of what is going on with a non-participative group member. If they have consistently missed study sessions, and not done the work they agreed to do, the rest of the group may opt to vote them out. Clarify with your instructor what his or her policy is on this, and notify him or her of your decision if necessary. Reorganize remaining group members ASAP.
- Do not let a single group member control your progress. Everyone needs to participate fully to be a successful group. Make sure each member is comfortable with your progress at each meeting and that you are all in agreement about what to do next.
Make use of Available Resources:
- The Center for Academic Success (CAS) provides group study rooms that students can reserve during the semester on a first-come, first-served basis. Check with Amy Hughes, CAS Administrative Secretary (LRC 205), 895-2808, if you would like to reserve study space. You can also ask Amy about setting up an appointment with one of the CAS Learning Resource Specialists to learn more about effective study strategies, get advice for working with your study group, or find a tutor for your course.
- Bring all materials for your course to each study session. Sharing notes from class and the text is a great way to catch important information you may have missed the first time through. If a group member is unable to purchase the text right away, check with the Circulation Desk at the library to see if the book is on reserve (895-2231).
- The Butte College Library has many resources, both in text form and online. Check with a Reference Librarian for specific resources for your project (895-2452).
- CAS has two tutor-supported computer labs exclusively for drop-in use, inside CAS in LRC 224 and downstairs in LRC 143. For more information on computer labs, check the CAS website, or contact Amy or one of the Learning Resource Specialists in CAS.
- If any members of your group qualify for special programs on campus (DSPS, EOPS, MESA , etc.), additional resources may be available.
- See your instructor for other specific resources for your course.