Starting an Effective Study GroupChen Wan Lim
Being part of a study group is beneficial. Apart from comparing notes and exchanging ideas, members of the study group can encourage each other to stay focus and to avoid procrastination. While there are no predefined rules on the ideal size, duration and frequency for a study group, there are a few tips on how to form an effective study group.
Tip 1: Member selection
There is no ‘perfect’ number of members to form a study group but there is indeed an ‘ideal’ size which forms an effective study group. Too few members (e.g. 2) will limit the amount of ideas which can be generated and too many (e.g. more than 6) will cause logistical problems such as scheduling and time management. As such, a healthy number would be between 3 to 6 people. In addition, carefully selecting members to join a study group is also important as an effective study group requires all members to contribute to discussions and brainstorming sessions – be sure to screen through the candidates and select potential members with similar goals.
Tip 2: Duration and meeting frequency
Again, there are no set rules on how often and how long a study group should meet. The frequency and duration of meetings should be a consensus agreement. However, the meetings should be regular and each meeting session should be sufficient to discus and to address a few topics without carrying it forward to the next meeting. But avoid dragging the meeting for more than two hours as different people have different attention spans. If possible, try to meet at a same place, same time and for a same duration weekly to make it easier for all members to schedule and to attend.
Tip 3: Setting ground rules
Ground rules should be set and agreed by everyone before the actual forming of the study group. While everyone would join a study group with similar intentions of improving their understanding and benefiting from a collective sharing of ideas, everyone should agree on following a few simple rules to ensure the overall success of the study group. Basic ground rules such as tardiness, preparedness, contribution and communication should be laid out. Members should avoid missing sessions, coming late to sessions, coming unprepared, hogging the entire discussions and being distracted by mobile devices.
Tip 4: Getting organised
Selection of a group leader or a coordinator is also advisable as a group leader will be responsible for setting out the discussion topics for the session and to coordinate the proceedings of the meeting. It is also the group leader’s task to moderate discussion, to keep the discussions relevant and on-track and to manage time accordingly. Alternatively, different members could take turns becoming leaders for each session.
Tip 5: Being prepared
Besides coordinating the group during the discussions, a group leader is also in charge of planning ahead before the next meeting on what to read up, what to discuss, any assignments to be done during the meeting and to also prepare all the logistical necessities. This could be done via a group text messaging application or emails. The key idea here is to come for the study session prepared and to avoid spending time looking over materials which can be covered through personal reading.
Tip 6: Session structure
Study groups can be conducted in various formats. Examples could be:
(i) Assignment and homework questions review and discussions;
(ii) Review of current week’s lecture topics;
(iii) Review of next week’s lecture topics;
(iv) Discussion and idea generation on various topics.
Typically, a study group session can be broken down into the following sub-sessions:
(i) 30 minutes reviewing the topic for the session where members who are not well-versed with the topic can seek further explanation from other members;
(ii) One hour reviewing tutorial questions and helping each other understand each question and solution better and;
(iii) Last 30 minutes concluding and summarising the topics of discussion for the session and also to prepare reading topics for the next study group session.
Tip 7: Evaluation
Feedback is important in any group related initiative. Therefore, at the end of every session, spend a couple of minutes allowing everyone to provide some constructive feedback on how to further improve the session and to make it more effective. Also be sure to ask everyone if their expectations are met and if there any issues to be resolved before the next meeting.