A question that is often asked at the Library Reference Desk is “How can I make the most effective use of a study group, study aids, CALI lessons, or other resources at the School?” The best answer we can give is “go see the crack Academic Success team, a Dean’s Study Fellow, or someone in the Department of Bar Preparation.” These Barry staff members will provide advice on best practices and will discuss what will probably work best for YOU given your preferences and work habits.
In case some of you never used a study group as an undergraduate here are a few tips.
Why Join a Study Group?
- The group provides comfort and security
- Members can motivate and learn from each other
- Talking through material helps with understanding and retention
- Groups can generate different points of view and novel arguments that you might not come up with on your own
- You can easily miss or misunderstand subtle points; an effective group can keep its members on the right track
What Makes a Study Group Effective?
A study group is most effective when all the members have a common goal that they are working together to reach. The study group should set some group goals based on the subject and the make-up of the group. The following guidelines can help ensure that your study group is effective:
- Set goals for each meeting
- Set a regular meeting schedule and stick to it
- Keep socializing to a minimum
- Keep the meetings focused
- Require that each member come to the meetings prepared
What Sorts of Things Should We Do in Our Group Meetings?
There are no hard and fast rules about what should take place during a study group meeting. Many of these activities are typical:
- Discuss material to review what professors have covered in class
- Discuss upcoming materials to prepare for class
- Exchange outline ideas, but don’t exchange the outlines themselves until you’ve made your own first
- Take practice exams
- Review and criticize each other’s practice exam answers
- Exchange study tips
- Help keep each other motivated
Study Group Don’ts
- Don’t allow the meeting to become a social or gossip session
- Don’t use the group to share the workload: you should brief cases and create study tools on your own and then compare your work with others
- Don’t allow the group to become a substitute for individual learning
- Don’t allow the group to become too large so that each member can contribute
- Don’t do all your studying in a group setting
- Don’t stay in a study group that is not working for you
Study aids are very popular with many law students, but they can also prove to be a time drain if they aren’t used effectively. Learning research shows that the most effective way to study is to work with materials for a course in multiple ways; self tests, discussion, reflection, writing for understanding, outlining, etc. Study aids are not a substitute for doing the hard work yourself, because working with the material, even when it is difficult, is essential to understanding. Some students often mistakenly believe that a generic brief, outline, or analysis reflects their professor’s prospective of the law. Don’t forget that different professors look at different aspects of a subject and may prefer that you key in on their terminology which will likely be different from the commercial aids.
On the other hand, reading a study aid may be all that’s needed to pull together all of the work you’ve done. It can be like the proverbial light bulb going on in your head after you’ve read someone else’s explanation of the material. Study aids can be especially useful to double-check your understanding of the material as you prepare course outlines. The types of books that you can buy vary widely, but most offer explanations of the law and some provide practice questions. If you’ve never used one, be aware these aids cover every traditional first year course plus many upper level courses. Consult with a Dean’s Study Fellow on the best way YOU can use them to perfect your performance.
Many of you may have never used a CALI lesson. If so, you are unaware of how they can be used to assist you in identifying your weaknesses in understanding a particular subject. Be sure to register at http://www.CALI.org and take advantage of their resources, self-paced exercises for nearly every law school subject, and the other information they provide that is targeted to help law school students such as you.
And, the “More” in the title is all about resources (human, paper, and electronic) that can help you become the best law student that you can be. Barry School of Law offers you access to more than just classes and knowledge about the law. Talk to your representatives in the SBA or to classmates who are actively involved in Student Organizations – they are very likely good resources to talk to about time management. Set appointments with the Department of Bar Preparation or the Academic Success team to talk about outlines, exams, or other course material issues. Use the members of the Library and IT teams to answer your research and information questions. And, most importantly, don’t forget to make appointments with faculty members when you need classroom assistance. Most faculty post their office hours on their office doors. We are all here to help you succeed.