Learning Commons

Studying In Groups

While many students are familiar with the concept of a "study group", there are key considerations for maximizing your learning during group study. Below are some tips for making the most of this learning approach.

Form Your Group

Start as early in the semester as possible. Make it a regular part of your academic "time on task" each week. Group study is most productive when it is ongoing, not just the week of an exam.

Invite a manageable amount of people to participate, typically between 3-7 students. Remember that studying with friends can at times be more of a distraction, as it can be easier to get off task.

Establish a meeting time that will work for everyone in the group, at least for most weeks. Aim for a manageable amount of time for each meeting; typically learners begin to get fatigued by the two-hour mark, a tipping point for being productive.

Choose Your Location

There are several locations on all three USM campuses for groups of students to work together. You will want to choose a space where "noise" (your interaction with others) is welcomed. This may include unoccupied classrooms, the campus center, and lounges in the residence halls. Some specific exampes are the Bailey Hall cafe, the cafe at the Lewiston Auburn campus, and the collaborative space on the third floor of the new Science wing on the Portland campus. Off campus, you may choose a coffee shop or other location with seating and wi-fi. 

To make sure there will be a space waiting for you, though, consider reserving a group study room in the Portland Learning Commons, the Gorham Learning Commons, and the Lewiston-Auburn Library. Most of the rooms have large white boards and big screens for your laptop or tablet. You also can use any of the open space in The Learning Commons, as it is designed for active, collaborative work.

Group study can also be effectively facilitated from a distance. Consider the option of meeting via Google Hangout, which can accommodate up to 15 participants and connect the group via audio and video with screen sharing capability.

Organize The Group

Showing up as a group does not necessarily mean the time will be well spent. The key is to SET A GOAL for each study session, meaning what is the SPECIFIC content to be reviewed or concepts to be discussed. Deciding the goal ahead of time can help prepare everyone for the group study session.

It is also important for EACH MEMBER to be fully prepared and committed for the study session. This involves each group member doing the following:

  • Completing the assigned reading
  • Taking and reviewing notes on the reading and during class 
  • Coming to the session ready to explain concepts to other group members
  • Arriving at the session with any questions about the agreed-upon content/concepts

Use Effective Learning Techniques

Active discussion is important, but INTENTIONAL discussion is even more effective from a learning perspective. Below are some techniques that facilitate a deeper level of understanding and a stronger memory of the information:

  • Make sure that each group member participates for an equal amount of time
  • Ask and answer each others' questions
  • Consider scheduling a Learning Commons tutor to attend (if in that location) as a coach
  • Create quizzes on the material for the group to tackle together
  • Take turns teaching each other pre-assigned amounts of the chapter/concepts