Help your students find peers to study with.

Students often find peers to study with, especially if they are older than traditional students, live off campus, are shy, are second language learners, or have outside-of-school demands that make it difficult for them to study during daytime hours. Yet they also know that studying with peers increases accountability and motivation. Here are some very ways that you can help them find people to study with. Since when students study more, they perform better, and better performances are more fun to grade, a little effort in these areas will make your teaching life a lot more pleasant, too.

  • Mandate synchronous online study groups that meet at the time that members choose. You can sort students in them yourself or at random or let them form their own groups. Require them to meet regularly (once a week, once every other week) and submit evidence of their work together. 
  • Mandate asynchronous study groups. Require that members submit one unique study tool per week/every two weeks/module, etc. They’ll likely amaze you with the ed tech tools they discover. 
  • Mandate student-led groups. Require every student to lead a certain number (one per month tends to work well) group for at least 50 minutes. Let them schedule them at their convenience and invite their classmates. They can meet in person when it’s safe to do so or online at any time. Depending on the class size, you may end up with a study group running every single day. Isn’t that awesome? Again, every student should submit some evidence of work done (like the notes they used to prepare or took as they led.) 
  • Require students to introduce each other in an early-in-the-semester discussion forum. In addition to the usual questions (which name they want to be called, the pronouns they want others to use about them), ask them to state if they are open to in-person, online synchronous, or online asynchronous studying. 
  • Make sure your LMS allows students to connect with each other. Show them how to use it to find email addresses of their classmates or to message them via the LMS. And make sure that they know where to find the messages that their peers might be sending. 
  • Create a discussion board just for students to organize volunteer study groups.
  • Ask your academic success office to record a brief (under 5 minute) video introducing their services, including how to request a study group or tutor. Require a quiz over it. 
  • Encourage your strong students to apply to be a tutor for the class. 
  • If your institution already has tutors for your class, ask them each to put together a brief profile (a video is great, but a short paragraph about each tutor and headshot to post in discussion forum also works) so you can share them with students. 
  • Require workshops for student papers, posters, and presentations. (Presentations are so much better when students practice them in front of peers in advance!) Assign a grade for their work, typically complete/incomplete. Your LMS may have a “workshop” assignment function built into it that you can use. 
  • Ask your writing center and other academic support offices to send videos introducing their services and showing students who to sign up for them, including online. 
  • Assign study-related tasks to students in small groups in advance of exams. For example, one group could work together to create a list of vocab words and definitions, another a timeline, another a list of major pieces of legislation covered in the module, another of all the people mentioned, another of notable scholarship on the topic, another a list of key statistics… Obviously, the content changes according to class, but part of the point is to teach them how to identify and organize important information (and to recognize what is primary and what is subsidiary). Also, don’t commit to double checking their work for accuracy, and don’t accept inaccurate answers on exams just because there is inaccuracy in the student-created study tools. Ideally, using a small group to create these will reduce errors.

What tips do you have to help students work together to study, whether online or off?

James Riddell’s An Audience
Fit Tho’ Few: A Reading of the Story of Robinson
Crusoe
(1890) shows two boys and a girl lounging in the grass, listening as the red haired boy reads aloud. The boys don’t wear shoes. A toy sailboat rests in the grass next to them. A body of water lies behind them.

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