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Study in group? or individually

The topic that I am going to talk about is the efficiency of group studying in learning. In fact, group studying is a prevalent phenomenon in education. In other word, some students prefer it rather than individual studying. According to Fleming (Would Group Study Improve Your Grades? College Professors Think So!, no date), students who took part in cooperative learning would be more likely to follow the studying schedule, write organized notes, and participate actively in learning. However, unable to acquire knowledge in a large portion and affected by irresponsible group mates would be the disadvantages of group studying (Clumeck Muchnick, no date). In this passage, we are primarily going to discuss the comparison between group studying and individual studying , and lastly discuss the limitation and suggestion of group studying.


Firstly, we are going to discuss the advantages of group studying. According to the study from Gökçe (2011), students thought group studying would make them involved in learning more actively, found studying more interesting, cultivated friendship, and developed responsible attitude in cooperation. Besides, the perspectives of teachers also exhibited that group learning enabled students to develop solidarity, cultivate communication skills, and acquire knowledge in a more enjoyable way. Moreover, one website (Is group study more efficient than independent study?, no date) also showed that group studying enables students would be more motivated to absorb knowledge, less stressed in studying, and more interacted with others.


Then, although there are lots of advantages of group studying, there are still some shortages of it. Based on the study of  Gökçe (2011), despite it showed that students showed more active in learning, group studying existed some limitations. In terms of the opinion of students, they argued that task responsibility were not evenly allocated. Besides, they also thought that group discussion produced a lot of noise which made them can’t be concentrated. On the other hand, teachers recognized that every students didn’t take the task responsibility in an equally level. Also, it takes time from group forming until task completed.


Lastly, it should be noted that there is limitation in Gökçes’ study. As the participants were all from primary school, this study can’t provide a convincing result. Therefore, further study of group studying in learning should be expanded into different educational sector, such as secondary school. In fact, although group studying has lots of benefits, it still contains some drawbacks. Therefore, it is suggested that teachers should be involved in group studying. For example, they should check the schedule of students’ work regularly in order to prevent procrastination. In addition, teachers should assign task to students according to their individual ability and thus to increase efficiency.


Reference list


Clumeck Muchnick, C. ( no date). Working with Study Partners or Study Groups. Retrieved 12 October 2013,


Fleming, G. ( no date). Would Group Study Improve Your Grades? College Professors Think So!. Retrieved 12 October 2013,


Gökçe, E. (2011). The influence of group studies techniques upon teaching & learning

process in elementary education.Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences, 15 (2011) 3947–3956.

Is group study more efficient than independent study? ( no date). Retrieved 12 October 2013,


7 responses to “Study in group? or individually

  1. Work (2008) in his book argues that School is similar to a workplace with a hierarchal arrangement of departments and classes; they work together towards the same goals, be it in small groups, as a class or even working individually with the same sets of problems. So really, if you think about it, we could all be said to study in groups, be it of 300 in lecture hall or by posting a question on the Facebook page when you’re stuck on something.

    The study you mentioned looked primary school learning so I was interested to see if this changed with a different level of education Springer, Stanne and Donavan (1999) looked at small group learning amongst undergrads and they too found a positive effect towards learning attitudes, persistence and academic achievement. Having said this the study was comparing with lectures and other large scale teaching methods, rather than individualized learning, so the gains may simply have come from being in smaller group for tuition rather than simply working in group on a project. Johnson and Johnson also found this in their Meta review suggesting that collaborative learning is beneficial especially in the areas of Achievement, motivation, and developing good interpersonal relationships.

    One of the issues with group work is social loafing/compensating, some individuals in a group may do less work if they feel they can shift the work onto others in group, the larger the group the more this is likely to occur (Roger & Johnson 2009) in the opposite scenario one or more people in a group may be concerned with make sure that the project is done as well as possible and may take on two or more roles, working much harder than others to ensure the project is completed, one way of avoiding this may be to get everyone in the group to work on a different part of the topic and then come together at the end to present them as this is likely to highlight who has worked hard and who has been free riding.

    Work, H. S. (2008). School systems are organizations that like others can be readily subject to sociological analysis.. The parts of. Schools and society: a sociological approach to education, 73.

    Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. S. (1999). Effects of small-group learning on undergraduates in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology: A meta-analysis. Review of educational research, 69(1), 21-51
    Johnson, D. W., & Johnson, R. T. (2009). An educational psychology success story: Social interdependence theory and cooperative learning. Educational researcher, 38(5), 365-379.
    Roger, T., & Johnson, D. W. (2009). An overview of cooperative learning.

  2. Group work is always something that comes down to personal choice, some people prefer to work on their own and others in a group. There are many advantages and disadvantages with group work as you have stated.

    Prince (2004) reviewed several studies looking at students group work and found that working within a group improved academic achievement, self-esteem and social skills. This suggests that working within a group is beneficial to students learning.

    However, one of the problems with group work is that sometimes not everyone in the group puts in the same amount of effort, meaning there are a few people doing all the work and everyone is getting the grade for it. Cheng and Warren (2000) reveal that asking students to access the amount of work each individual put into the group work is an effectively and fair way to grade student. Furthermore, they believe this motivated students to all put an equal amount of effort in their work. In addition to this, Dirk (1999) reveals that groups of students working together who know and trust each other are more likely to share the workload. Whereas students who do not know each other are more likely to work individually, leaving room for some to work more/harder than others.

    Overall, I think it is important for students to learn to cooperate and work together in group, as this will greatly improve their social skills and academic performance. It is also a lot more interesting than sitting in lectures and a lot more fun than working individually! However, teachers need to be aware of and put processes into place to make sure that all students in a group are putting in equal amount of effort for the group work to be effective.

    Cheng, W. & Warren, M. (2000). Making a difference: Using peers to assess individual students’ contributions to a group project. Teaching in Higher Education, 5, 243-255.
    Dirk, K.T. (1999). The effects of interpersonal trust on work group performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 84, 445-455.
    Prince, M. (2004). Does active learning work? A review of the research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93, 223-231.

  3. verahe

    Interesting topic! I agree with your opinion that working in groups has so many positive outcomes rather than working individually. From my own experience, I prefer to work with a group of people. It provides a chance to speak out my perspective. Being a Chinese student whose first language is not English; group work gives me good opportunity to practice English, which is one special benefit to me. No one is perfect; discussion with group members is a wonderful method to learn from each other and to share diverse perspectives. Working with others provides me the chance to recognize my weaker areas and problematic viewpoints by discussion with the team members. Working with a group of people also motives me to study. For example, honestly speaking, I usually spend more time to searching resources if the task is group working rather than individual task because I must participate in discussion part, so I need to have my own perspective before group discussion. However, if it is not a group work, I might go easier on myself, it finally leads to “procrastination”. Moreover, as we live in a multicultural world, working with group at school gives a chance to know different cultures and religions. “Positive group experiences have been shown to contribute to student learning, retention and overall college success”. (Astin, 1997; Tinto, 1998; National Survey of Student Engagement, 2006). Group work further develops students’ sense of responsibility. Most of the time, people are distributed to different parts of task, so we have to take responsibilities to our own parts and share with teammates, this is also an advantage of working within group.

    Despite the advantages it offers, working in groups almost presents disadvantages. A common disadvantage is that “free riding within the team may occur”. (Medsker and Campion, 1992). Certain group members do not contribute to the task, but they still gain the same mark as the rest of members. It is not fair, but only few students notice it to instructor when their efforts were being shared with someone who actually did not do the work.
    In general speaking, the advantages of working with groups is greater rather than its limitations. Therefore, the method of learning is good thing to raise.


    Astin, A. (1993). What matters in college? Four critical years revisited. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    Medsker, Gina.J.; Campion, Michael. A. (1992). Relations Between Work Team Characteristics and Effectiveness: A Replication and Extension, 432-466.

  4. psue68

    Hi there, I would say that your blog is very well-structured, and you did an excellent job on addressing the advantages and disadvantages of peer study group against individual study. I would like to add some points to the disadvantages of this studying myth in terms of social psychology: Social Loafing, Group Brainstorming, and Social Influence Processes. In a peep study group, learners sit together to generate new ideas, discuss, and revise. As you have mentioned the issue of lack in responsibility, a psychology perspective of Social Loafing is applicable in this context. According to Latane et al (1979), social loafing occurs when learners working on a collective task, they are more likely to reduce their individual effect compared to working individually.

    With a fundamentally good intention, group brainstorming is defined as the intensive generation of ideas in a group of individuals in order to enhance the group creativity (Osborn, 1957). Normally individuals believe that group brainstorming can improve creativity thinking, nevertheless Mullen et al (1991) indicated that some individuals may not behave better in group rather than alone. These findings can be explained by the theory of social influence processes, in which involves conformity (Paulus & Dzindolet, 1993). The brief concept of conformity is a change in behavior or belief due to the attitude of a majority, and it would affect how learners present their ideas in front of a group (Bond & Smith, 1996). For example, other students in a group may not share their ideas because there is already a talented student in the group who represents as an expert in knowledge.

    Personally, I agree that teachers should involve appropriate time to guide students in the work. Fundamentally however, to some extent, whether or not teachers should assign tasks to students based on their capability is determined by the purpose, to educate the learners or just to enhance efficiency? If the design of group study is structured as a large assessment (i.e. group project), efficiency is necessary to ensure project is finished with high quality. Whereas if the group study is a weekly activity for students to improve their critical thinking, it would be better to let them experience tasks that they are not familiar with, in order for them to learn and to improve different aspects of group work.

    1. Bond, R. & Smith, P. B. (1996). Culture and conformity: a meta-analysis of studies using Asch’s (1952, 1956) line judgment task. Psychol. Bull, 119, 111-37.
    2. Mullen, B., Johnson, C., & Salas, E. (1991). Productivity loss in brainstorming groups: A meta-analytic integration. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 12, 3–23
    3. Osborn, A. F. (1957). Applied imagination (1st ed.). New York: Scribner.
    4. Latane, B., Williams, K., & Harkins, S., Many Hands Make Light The Work: The Causes and Consequences of Social Loafing, JPSP, 37, 822-832.
    5. Paulus, P. B., & Dzindolet, M. T., (1993). Social Influence Processes in Group Brainstorming. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 64(4), 575-586.

  5. This is an interesting area however you seem to have missed a vital aspect, peer learning. A demonstration of this is best done in this picture ( It is on this model that Jesse has built this module around. Discussion, practice and teaching others are the best ways to teach people. It is on these three aspects that blogs, comments and presentations are focused on. It was also on this basis that Fran modelled her module on last year in personality and individual differences. I would then ask you, how would you feel that this is best applied in a school setting? As the benefits for students are obvious to see.

  6. psuf3c

    Group work is often helpful when one is struggling with certain concepts. For example, in the stats module I found it helpful to have group sessions where we could discuss and talk through all the areas we looked at in lectures. If there wasn’t the seminar accompanying the lecture then I feel I would have struggled as the majority of things I learnt was through peer interaction. When taking part in group work, no-one wants to look stupid so individuals often put more effort into the information they find so that they feel they can take part in an active discussion.
    To further this the learning pyramid shows that people learn best through teaching someone else, so if in a group one person feels confident enough to explain it to others who don’t understand then their chances of long term retention are increased.
    However, some people may learn better through independent learning because they may not feel confident enough to take part fully in a group session! In this instance an individual may feel more confident doing their own research and building upon it and doing it in a way that suits then rather than trying to fit into a group.
    In essence, some people may learn better in groups because it motivates them more or they have the confidence to speak up and ask questions when they do not understand. Whereas others would rather work individually and at a level and pace that is suitable for them.

  7. The influence that groups have is a popular topic in social psychology. The presence of others can spark competitive instincts (Triplett, 1898) or social facilitation (Allport 1920) bringing out dominate responces.
    However, group work can have a more negative effect. Larger groups can result in loss of motivation (Ingham, Levinger, Graves, & Peckham, 1974), meaning the group does worse than individuals would. This impact of social loafers and free riders may be the main drawback of using group work in education, is that it hard to make sure the group gives equal effort.

    Allport, F. H. (1920). The influence of the group upon association and thought. Journal of experimental psychology, 3(3), 159.
    Ingham, A. G., Levinger, G., Graves, J., & Peckham, V. (1974). The Ringelmann effect: Studies of group size and group performance. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 10(4), 371-384.
    Triplett, N. (1898). The dynamogenic factors in pacemaking and competition. The American journal of psychology, 9(4), 507-533.

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