Study Groups: Are Two Heads Always Better Than One?

Group of students studying in a cafe

We’ve all heard the phrase “two heads are better than one.” However, when it comes to study groups, there are a few things you need to consider before forming or joining one.  First, you want to try to find out if potential group members will be responsible and prepared to contribute to group study efforts. Observe how your classmates contribute to class discussions and keep in mind any talks you’ve had with them in more informal settings, as some students feel more comfortable discussing topics outside of the classroom. Use these opportunities to learn more about your classmates and to determine how well you will get on. Be careful not to exclude potential group members solely based on the fact that they are different in some way. Differences are desirable and can potentially provide the group with an alternate perspective on some issues. Respect should be key among all group members. Also, size matters and smaller groups tend to work best so limit the number of participants to no more than six.

Each group member should have the ability to stay focused on the task at hand. It’s always tempting to engage in interesting conversations about life. However, you want to ensure that these conversations take place at an appropriate time. One way to handle this is to create a plan for what is to be accomplished at each session. Also, consider scheduling intervals for working and intervals for chatting. For example, work for two hours and then chat while having a snack or lunch for a designated period of time. You can develop a plan that works best for the group.

Many students enjoy and benefit from participating in study groups. Interacting with others can help you to process information from readings or class sessions.  For example, speaking with others about a concept and receiving feedback can help you to better understand and internalize that information. If you are able to explain a topic well to someone else, it demonstrates your understanding of the topic. Another benefit of study groups is that individual members may be able to help fill gaps in knowledge for others.  Some group members may understand a topic particularly well and they can share that knowledge with the rest of the members. Lastly, participating in a study group can be very motivating, especially if the group functions as a collaborative support network with the goal of helping all members succeed. If this is the case then two heads can definitely be better than one.

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