How to Lead a Study Group
The study group: for undergraduate students, they’re often one option of many, whereas in graduate and law school they’re practically standard fare. If you’re planning to study with your peers, there are but a few things you absolutely have to get right to make the experience academically profitable. Lucky for you, we know them. And we want you to know them, too.
Leading a Study Group 101
- Identify your goal. Everything starts with a good idea. If you can identify benefits of studying with others, you can lead a study group. Your stated goal will be something like, “To organize and lead a study group to better understand the readings and lectures from Professor X’s class, “Survey of Mythical Beasts in 19th century Azerbaijanian Literature.” Write it down if you’re preparing notes for the group, or state it at your first group meeting.
- Identify your material. Next on your study group checklist? Gathering relevant materials for group study time. If your group meets several times over the course of the semester, this will be an ongoing project. Have all relevant texts, lecture notes, and course materials organized — for both your sake and others’.
- Identify your process. How will this group get the studying done? Will you study silently, but separately — available to each other for questions and clarifications only? Will you meet as a group and learn course materials together over several meetings? Will you split up readings via outlining tasks (this method is common in law school)? Will you be leading the group? Think about exactly how you prefer the group to be structured and how best for everyone to complete their work. Make your agenda accordingly.
- Identify your group. If you’re not going to invite your whole class to the group study, identify key players that you want studying by your side — and do it early. Speak colloquially to other students or make an announcement to the class, but be sure to start an e-mail list with relevant parties. If you care to crowdsource, find out others’ schedules. Your goal is to create the perfect study group at a time convenient for all involved. And if you can’t meet informally, make sure you’ve reserved the proper study carrels or conference rooms.
Leading Your First Study Group
Once you’ve organized the players, materials, place, and date — it’s time to get your study on!
- Introduce yourself. Once everyone has gathered at your chosen destination, introduce yourself and others. Let everyone know that if there are any questions, concerns, or issues not covered, that you’ll be available by e-mail and the rest of the group will, too. Have some fun, and meet new people. And it’s a great time to identify your goal to the group.
- Learn from others. When leading your first formal study group, you might be in charge of assigning groups, partners, and tasks. Listen to what others have to say, and pair people that work well in sync or learn best by similar methods. If someone else has the floor, give it to them. Listen diligently — you can learn much when your eyes and mind are open.
- Study. While you can plan, talk, and outline forever, it’s easier to simply get the job done. Make sure that you see the forest through the trees; while you’re honing your leadership and social skills by leading a study group, a positive academic outcome for all involved is the strongest barometer of success.
- Focus on results. During your study sessions, ask others for feedback. Focus on getting the most out of the group you’ve assembled — for yourself and others. Don’t spend hours belaboring study tactics, but know that everyone will have the expectation of study success. While enlightenment, academic experience, and lifelong learning is paramount, fostering academic results for yourself and your group should be your ultimate goal.
- Ask questions. If you’re ever unsure of a concept, don’t be afraid to ask. Study group leaders often have to take the lead in exposing vulnerability in their understanding. It’s not a weakness, and asking questions can often lead to lively discussion. Who knows? You might get your question answered, and learn a new perspective on a concept in the process.
- Review, Rethink, Regroup. If you’re halfway organized and put the fun in functional learning, you may be asked to lead a study group again. Think about the benefits and drawbacks of your past group study experiences, and do it better next time. Many times we learn by doing, and only after performing an act can we figure out how to improve upon it. Don’t be shy; use both positive and negative feedback to frame your methodology for next time.
Hispanic Scholarship Fund: How to Form a Study Group
About.Com: How to Be a Project Leader
BookRags: How to Form a Study Group in College
Gavilan: Study Groups and College Success
Debt-Free Scholar: 6 Benefits of Study Groups