Group study sessions: effective or pointless?

A common and popular form of studying throughout academia is group studying, but how effective is it?

When you get together with your friends or classmates to study you may not be as efficient as you set out to be. On numerous occasions I have brought schoolwork over to my friend’s dorm as part of a group study session.

When we all finally congregate, the first five minutes are pretty productive. We are focused and quiet, but then someone does something remotely humorous, one of us starts laughing, and then we all fall apart. Our group studying time ends up being a social talk-a-thon.

What causes groups to fall apart so often? Is it the type of people that determine how group studying turns out, or is it the group dynamic itself, or maybe the location in which a group is studying?

I believe it is a combination of all three.

Admittedly, I’m the kind of person that always wants to talk to the people that I am around, and many times when I start talking I get a little off track. Then there is the group dynamic itself. Friends gathered around studying are just asking for a long night of socializing rather than an efficient time studying.

Another problem that may arise when studying in a group with your peers is when the group falls victim to groupthink. According to the American Psychological Association, groupthink occurs when members of a group aim to reach a consensus on an issue and may therefore ignore other important factors.

When you work together and you fall into this trap, you may find yourself working toward the wrong answer because the groupthink process has blinded you from the correct answer.

One other variable that may determine the success of your group studying is the location.

For example, group studying at your dorm is probably not the best decision. You have to deal with too many interruptions, like your other roommate or suitemate’s schedules and the noise level of your fellow residents. If the room above you is throwing a huge rager then it will be quite difficult to have a quiet and focused study session for that Spanish midterm.

Personally, the only circumstance in which I was successful studying in my dorm was in the afternoon by myself, door locked and my phone off.

Once dinner hits and you see your friends, you can often get pressured into going to parties and other social gatherings, so you push back that seemingly unimportant exam review. Then you realize that you had no extra time to push back important studying time for an exam that is worth 50 percent of your grade.

Now you’re done for.

If you want to study in a group, the most successful location is most likely in our local, all-access Undergraduate Library.

With group study rooms that can be reserved by any University student, it provides the perfect environment for efficient studying. Plus, some of these rooms come equipped with features like whiteboards and laptop-to-television connectors, which could be helpful for practicing presentations. Additionally, with the thousands of resources in the form of text, digital databases and technical equipment, completing projects and researching for a paper is made that much easier.

Nevertheless, studying with others has unique advantages over studying alone. For instance, with a group of people you have more sets of eyes to look over term papers and projects.

Sometimes, that second review can find something that truly needs to be fixed. In fact, proofreaders and editors are some of the most important people in our society, as they are our last defense against looking dumb, rather than sounding intelligent.

Let’s say that you don’t have any ideas for your project or term paper yet: a group could help in that situation as well.

Bouncing ideas off of the group can be helpful when you decide what direction to take your project or how you should develop your argument in a paper. The more people that you have to bounce ideas off of, the higher chance you have of formulating a quality idea.

Even though group studying can end up as a total disaster, many times it can be the most productive time of your week. Remember that just like in real estate it’s all about location, location, location. If you study in a noisy, distracting environment, expect to be off-track and inefficient. Also, remember to choose your group wisely. Adam might be a good friend, but he talks a lot so maybe it is best if you tell him you will meet up with him at the ARC later rather than studying with him.

Even though everyone has his or her own approach to studying, it may be worth your time to make an effort to try some of these suggestions.

Now get off the Internet and start studying!

Max is a freshman in DGS. He can be reached at [email protected]