Group studying versus self-studying
DR KARLA HYLTON (Photo: DASHproductions)

LEARNING does not end when the school day is over and good study habits will always be the key to academic success. The productivity of time spent studying depends on the individual's learning style and techniques.

In recent times, the idea of collaborative studying in groups has grown and with that comes different schools of thought as to its merit versus that of solo studying. As with most things, there are pros and cons for each mode.

The obvious benefit of group study is the known tendency for students to learn from each other. One student may understand a particular concept better than others and is able to explain and clarify the idea. This is interchangeable among the group study members, allowing them to fill in gaps in comprehension among themselves depending on each member's strengths and weaknesses. This is actually peer teaching coupled with pooling of knowledge, which are both effective modes of learning. Often a peer is better able to pick up potential problem areas in a topic than the teacher who may skip over the finer and more basic details in a concept. Studying in groups generally leads to instant feedback, improved thinking ability, and boosts confidence. Group study also helps to build strong relationships and fosters teamwork and may enhance inner motivation.

Verbalisation and sharing of knowledge that takes place in group study is a well-known study tool for long-term retention of material. It also has the added benefit of developing strong communication skills and promotes healthy competitiveness among group members.

On the downside, it is easy to get distracted in a group setting. Even if a group study session is planned, the session may end up becoming social rather that educational, thus causing a lot of wastage of time. Focus is essential for positive outcome of group study.

In the case of group assignments not carefully monitored, it has been my experience that generally one or two members do 90 per cent of the work, while everyone in the group benefits equally from the grade. However, if group assignments are appropriately supervised and scored by educators, it can help 'lazy' students to participate and shine.

Self-studying is generally what most people consider as traditional studying. It involves sitting in a quiet room and reviewing notes and other learning materials. It encourages autonomy and reduces disturbances, allowing the student to customise learning techniques to their unique requirements. Individuals can choose his or her own pace of learning. Nonetheless, one must be careful that this does not become disadvantageous as one does not want a major slowdown in pace of learning. Choice of study environment and time of day also becomes more flexible as you are now in the driver's seat. Individuals can also zero in on exactly what concepts have not been learnt or understood, so use of time is maximised.

We also know ourselves better than anyone else and, therefore, can design our own best study plan if we are so motivated. Watch out for lack of internal motivation which can be a drawback of solo studying, depending on the individual's personality.

Self-studying also comes with risk of distractions, especially from social media and chats, which can adversely affect study.

In my view, no method is particularly better than the other. Perhaps a middle road is best. The appropriate way of studying will always be the one that you feel most comfortable with and which motivates you to do your best.

Dr Karla Hylton is the founder and CEO of Your Empowerment Solutions (YES) Institute, offering mathematics and science tutoring as well as a host of workshops for parents, teachers, and students. She is the author of Yes! You Can Help Your Child Achieve Academic Success and Complete Chemistry for Caribbean High Schools. Reach her at (876) 564-1347; e-mail: ceo@yes-institute.com; or visit www.yes-institute.com, or www.khylton.com.

Dr Karla Hylton

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