Tutoring Options: Formal Study Groups
Here are guidelines for forming and running a formal study group, along with a list of common pitfalls. These guidelines are intended to be flexible, and to help you maximize the benefit you obtain from the experience. Make sure to refer to your syllabus to determine what is acceptable collaboration in a particular subject. See also Academic Integrity.
Forming a Formal Study Group
- Start on the first day of class. Ask your instructor and TAs about how to find or start a group in that class. If you're a freshman, ask for help from your orientation leader, associate advisor, and advisor.
- At the first or second recitation, look for a sign-up sheet for study groups.
- If no one else is starting a group, this is your chance to exercise leadership!
- Try to find classmates who have similar learning goals and values, but be diverse: the different perspectives of women and men and students from various backgrounds add richness to the learning experience.
- Exchange contact information and set a first meeting (date, time, place).
Running a Formal Study Group
At the first session:
- Discuss goals, expectations, and ground rules for the group.
- Set a regular meeting time that will work for everyone.
- Choose a neutral meeting place that will be available throughout the term—a quiet, private dorm lounge; a department lounge or conference room; an unused classroom, etc.
- Designate a leader or set up a schedule for rotating leadership.
- Review the subject syllabus and make a schedule of topics for the semester.
For each session:
- Attempt to do your homework prior to each session.
- Compare notes and information.
- Actively listen without interrupting others; be respectful of differing opinions.
- Do not allow one student to dominate the group.
- If conversation wanders, try to redirect it to the stated topic.
- Do not let the session become a forum for complaints.
- Schedule times for breaks.
- Reserve 5–10 minutes at the end of each session to determine whether set goals were accomplished as a group.
Pitfalls of a Formal Study Group
- Sessions at a fixed time might be difficult to fit into participants' schedules, especially as they change through the term.
- Because everyone is expected to remain for the entire session, students who have completed their work need to accommodate others.
- Groups with high expectations and productivity might be too structured for some students.
- Few interruptions are expected. Participants must stay on track, creating a more intense and less relaxed atmosphere than in an informal group.
- A formal study group may include students you don't know: are you comfortable with that?
- Inviting a TA to visit the group may be difficult if the regular weekly time doesn't fit the TA's schedule.