Do you encourage students to form study groups to learn from one another outside of class? What have you seen work best in these peer learning circles to facilitate progress? Share with us in the comments section below.

We’ve written about the benefits of peer-to-peer learning before, but learning from fellow students can extend beyond course assignments–the benefits of working with peers certainly does. In On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life, Skip Downing describes how starting a study group can encourage students to be more invested in course content by interacting more actively with it, and thus help facilitate more meaningful learning and better grades. Not to mention, the ability to organize and work in a group is an important soft skill to develop for their lives in a future workplace. Here are three tips from Downing that you can share with your students to help them create and maintain a positive and beneficial study group:

  1. Choose members wisely. You want to seek out only those who will be contributors to the success of your study group. As you sit in class, take notice of others like you who exhibit a desire to learn. Look for students actively listening and taking notes, participating in discussion and making insightful comments, and asking questions. Don’t discount shy students who show an understanding of the material. They too could be a positive addition to your circle.
  2. Be sure you share the same aspirations. As you start to meet, discuss what you each expect to get out of joining a study group. Make sure that your goals align so you can work together to meet them.
  3. Set some ground rules. It’s a good plan of action for any team or group work. Make sure you all agree to some guidelines so your study group meetings remain study groups and don’t devolve into a social hour. (Didn’t the characters on Community start out as a study group? When was the last time we saw them studying?) Set expectations about when and where you’ll meet and what everyone should bring. There’s nothing wrong with being social, of course. You might find that you create great friendships that started with a study group. Just make sure to manage your time for work and fun. (pp.153-155)

Reference: Content adapted from Downing, Skip. 2014. On Course: Strategies for Creating Success in College and in Life, Seventh Edition. Boston, MA. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.