Weekly Digest #28: The Effectiveness of Study Groups

Weekly Digest #28: The Effectiveness of Study Groups

Last week was exam week in Cindy’s classes and after discussing their study strategies, many students reported having used study groups outside of class. Given that many students probably have exams coming up, we thought it might be beneficial to look into the effectiveness of study groups. We recently talked about how to manage group work in the classroom, but do the same rules apply for group work outside of class?

Here we have provided a list of resources talking about when and how study groups are most effective, with some concrete suggestions on what you should do if you are organizing a study group (or what you should tell students to do).

 
Picture from linked source

Picture from linked source

This is a summary of research conducted by Dr. Keith Sawyer examining why study groups do appear to be effective. Specifically, Dr. Sawyer was examining eye gaze and found that students who were learning the material at a deeper level looked up and at other members of the group instead of reading off the page. Making this conversational connection seems to be a key factor in why study groups are effective.

 

2) Joining a Study Group: The Benefits by Valerie Burdea

While this article may not have lots of citations to research evidence, it is a very easy to read list of the top reasons why study groups can be effective when it comes to cognition as well as some suggestions for how to create an effective study group.

Picture from linked source

Picture from linked source

 

3) The Elusive Benefits of Study Groups by Maryellen Weimer 

Unfortunately, study groups are not always effective. This article summarizes a research study in which study groups did not have a benefit on student learning and then discusses why that might have happened. The answer: we’re not always very good at working in groups.

 

4) Studying Alone vs. Group Study: Which is Better? by Thomas Edison State College

This article discusses the relative benefits of studying alone vs. studying in groups. Each one has t’s merits, and therefore a combination of both types of studying is likely best for retention.

 

5) Using Study Groups by Education Corner

While study groups are often effective, they are not always. We, therefore, want to leave you with some very concrete tips about HOW to create a study group that will be successful. This resource includes a brief summary of why study groups are successfully followed by a long list of how to make an effective study group.

Picture from Unsplash

Picture from Unsplash

Many of the above resources talk about study groups that meet throughout the semester to go over material. We strongly encourage this type of study group because it incorporates spaced practice of material, which we know is very beneficial for learning! However, many of Cindy’s students reported that they used their study groups specifically to quiz each other just before the exam. This type of collaborative quizzing is a bit more complicated and will be discussed in a future blog post. Stay tuned!


Every Sunday, we pick a theme and provide a curated list of links. If you have a theme suggestion, please don’t hesitate to contact us! Our 5 most recent digests can be found here:

Weekly Digest #23: The Myth of Multitasking

Weekly Digest #24: Educational Videos

Weekly Digest #25: Active Learning

Weekly Digest #26: How To Manage Group Work

Weekly Digest #27: Resources for Teaching Content Curation

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