There is strength in numbers, and this is true even in learning. Studying in a group can be very beneficial, as learners who have difficulty understanding a particular topic can ask their friends for help.
Making study plans with others fosters accountability, and commits them to a consistent study schedule. In addition, explaining topics to others helps you sharpen your own learning skills and increases your ability to absorb information.
Also, studying with friends is so much more fun than doing it on your own!
So, how do you plan an effective study group? Here are six tips to get the most out of learning with your friends.
1. Stay focused
This is perhaps the most important rule: don’t get distracted. Many study groups get derailed when their members have too much fun socialising instead of actually studying. This ultimately wastes everyone’s time.
Save the casual chit-chat for your breaks. Once the studying is done, you can do whatever you want – in fact, members are even encouraged to spend time together. Consider going for a meal, or enjoying a movie or outing. This encourages bonding and helps future group sessions be more enriching.
2. Size and time
Don’t have too big a study group, or it will be difficult to hear from everyone. Studies have shown that a good number is about four to six people.
The type of person who is part of your group is also important: invite only those who are willing to do the work and not be disruptive.
An ideal duration for a team study session is about two to three hours, with a few short breaks throughout.
3. Location, location, location
Having a conducive venue is another major factor in how well a study group operates. You need somewhere with enough room and chairs, as well as table space for laptops, textbooks, and study materials.
Other facilities such as whiteboards, drinking water, and Wi-Fi will also be useful.
A good place to meet is at a group member’s house. Cafés and libraries are also suitable, though be aware about making too much noise.
Some educational institutions or libraries allow members to use private discussion rooms, so arrange for this if you can.
4. Create an agenda
Every study group session should be properly planned, with members aware of what topics will be covered. One efficient way of doing so is by appointing a different member as the leader for each meeting.
He or she goes through the subject matter before assigning specific parts to other members. For example, the leader in a literature group may delegate one person to themes, one person to character, another to language, and so on.
Each member then takes turns presenting their understanding of the topic to everyone else, with the leader serving as a facilitator and providing a general overview.
5. Take advantage of strengths
Every person comes with his or her unique strengths and weaknesses. An ideal study group has different members who are each qualified in one particular subject, resulting in synergy when everyone pools their knowledge together.
The reality, however, is that you probably won’t have such a perfect situation. A good leader will nevertheless be able to identify what one member is particularly good at, and assign them the appropriate topic for the week.
6. Make sure everyone is involved
Each study session should see every group member participate in one way or another. Don’t let more vocal members dominate discussions, and make sure your group’s quieter members get the chance to be heard.
Also, be aware that everyone learns at their own pace and in different styles. What you think is a clear explanation might not be so obvious to others, and vice-versa.
The key is to be understanding and open to everyone, and not be afraid to ask for help or clarification if needed.