Go team! The role of the study group in academic success

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In this paper, we look at the communities and groups where engineering students work and learn outside the classroom, ranging from study groups to design project teams to professional society communities. Among four diverse institutions, we evaluate which academic communities, groups, or teams students participate in and when asked, which they tend to speak about more than others. We also probe more deeply into how and why the most effective teams or groups work for students. In a mixed methods approach, our quantitative (survey) data first show which academic communities students participate in and how active they are in these communities. Our qualitative data (interviews and focus groups) then explain how the most influential communities work for students. Our results show that while students reported participating at various levels, ranging from minimally to very active, in a broad range of academic groups available through their home departments and colleges, most (53%) are active or very active in laboratory groups and a large number (42%) are active or very active in informal study groups. In follow up interviews and focus groups, students also chose to discuss their experiences in study groups (83%) or lab groups (82%) but also commented frequently on their participation in professional societies. Of these students, most (87%) found benefit in participating in these groups, and a majority of the students (72%) felt that they benefitted in ways related to operating within the group as an integral part of the team. Most students stressed the social learning provided by the group as compared to a single individual working alone.

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... This varied between the different classes and years, so it may be partly a result of small sample size. But given the demonstrated effectiveness of group study [14]- [16], this may also not be a fully positive development. -Fewer "cookie-cutter" homework submissions. ...
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Teachers and students regulate learning to varying degrees in educational programmes in higher education. We present evidence that students in a student-centred medical programme self- and co-regulate their learning in independently formed study groups. We describe the perceived benefits of study groups and the effect of study group membership on student achievement. Years 1-2 of a 4-year, graduate-entry problem-based medical programme. We surveyed 233 year 2 students about features of their study groups and their study group membership in years 1-2. We compared study group membership with students' scores on a written summative assessment held at the end of their second year. For students who joined 1 study group, the length of time their group stayed together was positively related to achievement in the written summative assessment. There were no differences in summative assessment results between students who had been in a study group and students who had not been in a study group. Effective study groups are supportive, socially cohesive groups who generate mutual trust and loyalty, and self- and co-regulate their learning by giving and receiving explanations and summaries and motivating individual study. Teachers can support the formation of study groups by using small-group teaching/learning activities, providing clear learning outcomes and assessment criteria, minimising competition for grades and allocating room space.
Online social work education has grown rapidly in recent years, and practice courses now are frequently taught online. The present study contributes to the growing body of knowledge regarding best practices in online social work education by examining the effects of small-group learning communities on student learning and on student satisfaction in an online MSW practice course. Findings indicate that online MSW students participating in learning communities viewed the learning communities as useful, had higher levels of student satisfaction with the course, and demonstrated greater learning of course content than online MSW students participating only on one general discussion board.
Building on the foundation of research on how critical thinking develops during college and the extensive research on differences in the resident and commuter student experiences, researchers explored aspects of the college experience that might be associated with cognitive development. Data from 6 institutions representing 326 resident and 316 commuter students are analyzed.
Vie purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the perceptions of underprepared college students who had par-ticipated in a first-year learning community at an urban, culturally diverse, commuter campus in the southeastern United States. Perceptions of graduates and those who earned at least 30 college-level credit hours were compared to their learning community peers who did not persist and had dropped out of college. A to-tal of 22 students participated: 6 graduates, 12 persisters, and 4 dropouts. The factors included personal attributes, support systems, and other characteristics. Findings suggested the follow-ing ways to enhance the academic experience of underprepared college students: (a) include critical pedagogy, (b) integrate cocurricular activities with the academic disciplines, and (c) increase student-faculty interaction. Postsecondary institutions such as community colleges emphasize student retention because high levels of attrition may harm the interests of many constituents (Bragg, 2001). For example, Bragg identifies interests such as the long-term earning options of students; the economic vi-tality of communities needing skilled workers; and the institutions curriculum development, faculty planning, mission, and political impact. College administrators perceive student retention rates as indicators which measure the quality of faculty instruction, support ser-vices, and student success. In community col-leges this is particularly disconcerting because of the number of college students whose entry placement scores require them to enroll in de-velopmental education classes and their low persistence and graduation rates (Bers & Smith, 1991; Burley, Butner, & Cejda, 2001). Nationally, approximately one-third of all students enter-ing colleges or universities need remediation (Byrd & McDonald, 2005); as many as 41% of all community college freshmen nationwide are enrolled in developmental courses (Hoyt, 1999; McCabe, 2003). The following question framed the study: To what did underprepared community college students who participated in a learning commu-nity and completed their developmental classes attribute their having graduated (graduates) or earning at least 30 credit-bearing college credits (the persisters) as compared to those who par-ticipated in a learning community but did not complete their developmental classes and who dropped out of college (dropouts)? College students enrolling in developmental classes and not participating in learning com-munities have demonstrated a higher attrition rate and a lower completion rate (Boylan 1999; Burley et al, 2001; McCabe, 2003; Roueche & Roueche, 1999) compared to college students who participated in learning communities; the latter academically outperformed nonpar-ticipants (Brittenham et al., 2003; Knight, 2003; Raftery, 2005). Most studies have been conduct-ed at 4-year institutions or among specifically defined cohorts such as those enrolled in hon-ors colleges or specific majors. Zhao and Kuh (2004) analyzed 80,479 students from 365 four-year institutions, finding that participation in a learning community was positively linked with engagement in active and collaborative learn-ing, increased interaction with faculty mem-bers, and augmented overall satisfaction with the college experience. At the time of this study, 284 institutions had listed their programs with the Washington Center Learning Communities National Resource Directory (2007). Of that number, 101 represented community colleges, and only 9 of those institutions, including the study site, had implemented learning commu-nities for students in developmental education classes. Developmental education (also known as postsecondary remediation, basic skills edu-cation, compensatory education, or preparatory education) is composed primarily of sequences of increasingly advanced courses designed to bring underprepared students to the level of skill competency expected of college freshmen (Mc-Cabe, 2003).
Background Engineering students participate in a variety of communities outside of their academic endeavors ranging from family to professional societies. While the degree to which they participate and immediate benefits of participation have been explored, pathways by which participation in nonacademic “outside” communities leads to academic engagement are not as well understood. Purpose (Hypothesis)This study seeks to identify outside communities to which students feel most connected and pathways by which these important communities influence students' academic endeavors. Design/Method This study uses mixed methods, combining surveys and focus groups. A survey emphasizing measurement of belonging, engagement, and connection to community was collected from over 750 student participants at four different institutions. Focus groups were then used to explore how students' most important communities influence their academic life. Focus group data analysis revealed which needs were met for students through participation in outside communities. ResultsAcross all institutions, family is the community to which students feel most connected, with friends being a distant second. Students spoke of communities strategically, identifying needs that they meet through participation in communities and linking their participation with increased ability to engage in their academic endeavors. Most frequently, students' belonging needs were met through participation in outside communities, although safety and esteem needs were also affected. Conclusions Our results strongly suggest that, among the many types of needs studied, providing students with opportunities to belong will provide the most return on investment for engagement in academic endeavors.
The purpose of the study is to examine the use of instructional technology in creating a mutual aid environment in the classroom. By developing and exploring Internet-based exercises designed to promote interaction in a distance education environment, the authors tested the hypothesis that instructional technology offers opportunities to promote mutual aid among students. This article describes these exercises and presents the results of a student survey about the application of mutual aid in distance education.