Getting the Most Out of Peer Groups

Learning Outcomes

  • Explain how peer groups can aid in class preparation

Studying with fellow classmates and/or working with them on projects and class assignments can significantly enhance learning. Group work can help teams chunk bigger tasks into more manageable parts and steps. It can also help participants manage their time better. In addition, group work often involves discussion and collaboration, which can improve everyone’s understanding of the material. By being forced to explain something to others, you have to repeat it, which aids in learning. Additionally, when explaining something to others, you are sometimes forced to reconsider your own understanding of it when someone asks a question you cannot answer. Another benefit is the opportunity for feedback on ideas and performance. And working in groups always helps members develop stronger communication skills—both speaking and listening skills.

Getting the most out of working in a group itself requires some special skills. The following video, Group Work, from the University of British Columbia, offers some pointers.

You can view the transcript for “Group Work” here (opens in new window).

Below is a summary of the key points in the video:

  • Know your strengths and learn what others can bring to the table. Consider these strengths when assigning roles or project tasks.
  • First meetings are key to setting a good tone. Plan enough time to do the following:
    • Learn people’s goals for the group.
    • Learn people’s strengths.
    • Assign roles.
    • Set up a meeting schedule.
    • Review the tools you will need to support your work (Google docs, Wiki page, etc.).
  • Be clear about everyone’s goals so that the group has a clear idea of what people expect to get from the group study process. Goals are important to motivation.
  • Get everyone working:
    • Assign tasks that play to individual strengths.
    • Assign a progress-checker to follow up on progress.
    • Use meetings to review progress and provide guidance and support where needed.
    • Choose a good online tool to help you collect and respond to one another’s ideas and questions between meetings.
  • Conflict is natural and can be necessary to achieve collaboration. Learn to manage it.
    • Develop effective communication skills.
    • Work toward mutual understanding.
    • Keep group interests at the forefront.
    • Be flexible in looking for solutions.
    • Make sure solutions work for everyone.

Try It


group work: a study format where students work together to address material, solve problems, and present ideas and interpretations to each other


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