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Two minds are better than one for studying

By: Johnny Boldrick

Courtesy of Hastings Health Source [1]

[2]Janice Benjamin sinks into a library couch, complete with textbook and classmate in tow.

The Loyalist College paralegal student studies with someone else roughly 50 per cent of the time and usually that someone is friend Kirsten Williams.

Some people would be distracted by the presence of a friend. Benjamin doesn’t have that problem. She finds having someone with her helps with the process.

“I find that we think the same and it makes it easier to have to tackle studying,” she said.

Such is the debate that has raged for years. Some say it’s better to study alone while others insist a group setting is best. Now, science has it’s own take on the issue.

A study released from the University of California San Diego looked at interactions between 290 students in a college environment. It found that higher achievers were more likely to be those who exchanged information and had social interactions with other students.

Benjamin agreed with the study. She said that studying with someone else has many benefits.

“You get to see another persons point of view and how they interpreted what you’re trying to figure out,” Benjamin said.

Jon Plumridge, a construction engineering student at Loyalist and peer tutor, agrees with Benjamin.  He said that there is definitely a place for study groups.

Studying in a group may not be for everyone. Plumridge said that while it works for some, not everyone learns the same way.

“I think that depends on the person. Everybody learns a different way. Some people are visual, some are talkers and some people do better just to be locked in a room with some music,” he said.

There are advantages of studying alone. Being able to concentrate, the ability to be more through are two of the benefits. Plumridge said that one of the major benefits of studying by yourself is the lack of distractions.

“A group of people are going to get off topic, but if you can keep plugging away sometimes the distractions aren’t a bad thing- it can give you a break,” he said.

Plumridge has had to deal with his share of off topic distractions. He’s even been the one to blame on occasion.

“Sometimes I’m the one that does the distracting and I’ll admit that,” he said.

Still, the positives outweigh the negatives according to Plumridge. He said that sometimes, you just need a little help. That’s where it pays off to have peer support.

“If you’re banging your head off the walls trying to figure out something that’s not coming to you it’s best to try and get some help,” he said “If it’s not coming to you and you’ve been at it for three or four hours then it’s probably not going to come to you unless you have some fantastic revelation.”

Some people find groups hard to work in. The noise level and multitude of opinions can be too much. That’s understandable, but what if the same person also has trouble staying on topic when left to his or her own devices. There is another option.

Loyalist offers the tutors at the Peer Tutoring and Academic Skills Centre. Students can work one on one with a tutor (who are fellow students) to receive the attention they need.

Plumridge has been a tutor at the centre since last semester. He feels seeing a peer tutor has an advantage over other forms of studying.

“It’s someone you can relate to maybe better than a professor, certainly if you’re having trouble you might want to speak to them but as far as working with someone your own age it might be a little more comfortable for them,” he said.

Benjamin visited the centre last semester. She received help with accounting. She credits the centre with developing her understanding of the subject.

If students are still struggling with course work, Plumridge says that the most obvious course of action may be the best one.

“I stopped, talked to my professor and said ‘I’m not getting this and I don’t understand why. I thought I had it and it didn’t go well’ and it took about five minutes and he had me understanding it perfectly,” he said.

Some people, like Benjamin, find working in a group setting best. Some find working alone to be their cup of tea. Different methods work for different people. Plumridge said it’s all about finding what works for you.

“If it’s going along great then certainly continue what you’re doing because it’ll just get done so much faster,” he said.