Study Groups: One for All and All for One?

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Your mind goes blank as you stare at the book in front of you. You’re dreaming of relaxing by the beach over summer break, avoiding the reality of your Spanish test the next day. You watch your friends, sitting next to you at the library, laughing and scrolling through Facebook while you stress over your literature paper due next week, your Spanish exam tomorrow and the uneasy feeling creeping in you regarding your college graduation. You laugh with them, but the next minute you’re back to focusing on what you came to the library for: studying.

Many students band together to cram the night before their exams, huddling together and memorizing equations until the sun rises. How much better do they perform versus students who study alone though? On one hand, conversations outside of the classroom can break the monotony of the material and promote learning. On the other hand, distractions may arise when you study with your friends. Your friend may bring up a funny video about the peanut butter covered baby or the “Bad Luck Brian” meme. The next thing you know, three hours have passed and not a lick of work has been completed. So which is it? Should you hole up alone to study for biochem or get the group chat flowing?

The Professors’ Opinion

Florida State University Professor Anne Coldiron Professor brought up a good point. “I have been teaching at the university level since 1992 (24 years), and I have been teaching at FSU since January 2007 (nine years). I have witnessed many students attempt to study in groups. Personally, I believe that introverted and extroverted students learn differently, just as different students have different learning styles (e.g., visual, haptic, auditory).”Basically, students’ study habits differ. So group studying might work for your roommate, but you might work better with some personal space.

In “Introversion: The Often Forgotten Factor Impacting the Gifted,” Jill D. Burruss and Lisa Kaenzig said, “Instruction for the introvert should differ from that provided for the extrovert. Methods should utilize that internal reflective focus and honor the need for structure, quiet, and small groups.” Burruss and Kaenzig reaffirmed that students’ personalities will greatly affect the study habits that prove most efficient for them.

Aside from personal preference, the actual class structure affects whether or not group work will prove conducive to your studies. “The benefits of study groups for my students would depend on the class I am teaching at the time. In, let’s say, an English composition class, there’s not much ‘content’ (history, readings, stories, facts), and I don’t give exams in [composition] classes for this reason,” said former FSU professor Patrick Day.

For classes that do require long hours of studying before the subject matter finally clicks, study groups can provide an invaluable resource. “Once all students in the group have read (and sometimes wrestled with) course material, they can come together to have a productive study group. The best type of study group will include students with various academic strengths. By participating in a study group, students can reaffirm what they already know and learn new concepts and skills from their peers,” Day said.

FSU sociology graduate student Andrew Mannheimer echoed Day’s words. “Study groups are a great way for students to review course material. Often times, students can effectively convey concepts to their peers, resulting in a higher level of understanding and stronger performances on examinations.” While Mannheimer believes in the effectiveness of study group, he did recommend students come prepared.

The Students’ Side

Sure you should take your professors’ recommendation, but you must also consider whether solitary or group studying works for you and your friends.

Working alone can feel refreshing since you’re not distracted by your surroundings. A sectioned off cubicle or study area can help you stay focused on your work instead of getting distracted by your friends telling you about last night’s episode of Game of Thrones.

On the other hand, though, studying with friends doesn’t always involve fun and games. You and your friends might all plug in your headphones and get on that study grind. FSU junior and psychology major Jacourie Clark said, “…I think just studying around people you already know works well. You can hold each other accountable and joke to break the monotony.” Plus, venting to your friends how you’ve lost your sleep over the exams can show a light in the darkness. Sharing frustrations while motivating each other to stay on top of their work allows students to be productive.

Outside of the library, study groups can build your confidence so you finally speak up and offer your opinion on the latest novel in your lit class. “Study group helped me get more comfortable talking to others in a small group. After getting used to talking in a small group I have less anxiety talking to larger groups in class,” FSU freshman Shaquice Floyd said. Making a study group can help bring shy people out of their shells.

So the next time you sit down to study with you friends, remember that study groups might not work for everyone, but at the end of the day, they become what you make of them. Continue to push yourself and ask your professors for help. Your support system not only lies within the classroom but also in the boundless creation that is the study group.

Senior studying Creative Writing at Florida State University. Loves writing short stories, poems, songs. Music enthusiast, movie goer, and all time sociable observer of life.

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