Or perhaps you have been part of one of those ambitious study groups that experience early momentum with a quick start but soon get overwhelmed with the seemingly inexhaustible list of topics left to cover and zero will to go on? Has midnight ever, suddenly and without warning or so much as a clock chime, come upon you as the library is closing, an undeniable sense of dread touching every inch of your body as you consider you may have wasted precious time you could have (and, perhaps, should have) spent studying by yourself?
If the answer to any of those questions is “yes” -or even “maybe” because you’ve experienced somewhat similar situations – then keep reading. Below you’ll find our best tips and tricks to improve your group dynamics so you can be as creative, as productive, and as effective as possible when you come together to tackle a task.
1. Define roles and responsibilities:
Some roles in a study group include: a leader who makes sure that goals for each study session are clearly articulated and eventually accomplished, a moderator to ensure everyone stays on schedule and on topic at all times, and an organizer who figures out a time that best suits everyone, arranges the meeting places, assigns each member’s responsibilities, and maintains the agenda for each meeting. Having each member assume a different role ensures effective time management and that everyone takes an active part in assuring that the groups’ sessions run smoothly. Depending on the group’s goals, other roles to consider include: timekeeper, material manager, and notetaker or recorder.
2. Identify goals as a group:
Guaranteeing that everyone in the group understands why they are there and what they all want to get out of the study group will allow you to accomplish your objectives and not waste time chasing different outcomes. Clarifying your goals early on can lead to meaningful conversations that affect group member roles and expectations.
3. Stay organized and focused:
Agree on the topics you are going to review before meeting for the study session. Moreover, everyone should agree on the time and place and prepare their relevant materials, including readings, videos, questions, and even quizzes you can use to test each other. Remember that one of the reasons to join a study group is because learning is a collaborative experience that should be inclusive of diverse thinking. Dividing study topics amongst the group according to your members’ abilities and interests will save you a lot of time and make the experience more enjoyable.
4. Make the experience as personalized as possible:
Sitting down at the library and reading from a book may work for some people but most learning is cemented through feedback. Take advantage of the fact you are in a group and try out different ways of collaborating to decide which format best supports your ultimate goal. You could try to: teach each other the material, brainstorm together, compare and contrast each other’s notes, present different ways of solving the same problem, assess each other using sample test questions, and include digital tools such as Kahoot! to create friendly competition with fun quizzes – the list goes on and on!
5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions:
It is ok, and in fact, encouraged to ask questions in any learning but especially when in groups. Leverage your group members’ unique abilities and keep in mind that communication is crucial. That said: if you don’t understand a concept, don’t stay quiet! Ask your question confidently and stay present as you figure out the solution with your group buddies. Don’t forget to be kind when someone else has a question that may be obvious to you; instead, make sure you understand the question and then help them understand the solution. Remember, there is no “I” in team.
Here are a few additional recommendations:
- Regularly take active breaks.
- Allow for 5-10 minutes of socializing at the beginning and/or end of each session.
- Actively listen to every member of the group, no matter your previous experiences.
- Always do a quick wrap-up at the end of the session to review anything that may not be clear to everyone and set the agenda for next time.
- Have fun!
Remember: working in a team is a skill you will most certainly need when you go out into the job market. Therefore, it is never too early to cultivate your teamwork skills and leadership abilities.
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