Combined study or combined disaster?

While some children prefer studying alone, some prefer studying in a group. But, how much studying is your child actually doing, be it alone or in a group?

By Anusha Vincent  • 7 min read

Combined study or combined disaster?

The ‘rolling eye’ syndrome. It is what afflicts you every time your child wants to go to her friend’s place for ‘combined studies’. ‘Everyone will be there; even some of the toppers,’ she assures you, with wide eyes. As for your own eyes… against your own volition, they begin to knowingly roll about in their sockets. ‘Yeah right,’ you think, reminiscing your own group study days, when a bunch of you would get together at a friend’s place and use the stacks of books as arm rests whilst you gossiped. In India, ‘combined studies’ is but a euphemism for ‘have fun with friends, with parental permission’. Of course, there are the rare cases in which students actually benefit from group study - this is usually at the university level. However, school-going youngsters have always and will always continue to insist that coke, chips, video game breaks and gossip notwithstanding, these study sessions do help in more ways than one.

At ParentCirlce, we didn’t know which side to take. So, we decided to get two teens - 14-year-old Mrinalini B and Nikita Ramesh - to fight it out while we sat back with pen, paper and popcorn.

Here’s how it went.

Mrinalini: I don’t believe in group studies! I’ve tried it a few times, and it has always been a great experience… for all the wrong reasons! From the host’s family feeding us the choicest snacks every 15 minutes, to all of us slipping into random discussion ever so often, very little studying actually got done. It was more of a reason for all of us to get dressed, come together and take ‘study selfies’.

Nikita: Well, I find it easier to get doubts cleared on the spot, instead of having to note them all down and then calling a friend. Sharing ideas is also a great way to learn and it complements bookish knowledge. It is only when you are equipped to argue on a topic that you are ready to write an exam on it! Group study fosters this atmosphere of questioning… with the added advantage of no one being afraid of sounding like a fool (unlike in the classroom).

Mrinalini: Hmm, I guess it might have worked for me too if all my companions were good - but the presence of one ‘weak link’ ruined it all. She would keep talking non-stop about irrelevant nonsense, which stopped being entertaining after a point. And naturally, we couldn’t ask her not to come along because she is also a friend. We spent most of our time trying to get her on the right track. Finally, I decided to study by myself. This decision clearly reflects in my report card too.

Nikita: Very true, Mrinalini! Luckily, my pals help me stay motivated. All the studying I do only happens because my study group meets regularly. Even if I am just present and listening to what’s happening, I learn much more than when I am in my room, a mere two centimetres away from my pet pooch. If I am alone, I might tend to postpone studying till the fateful night before! But, when I have a bunch of friends to compare notes with, I realise how much behind I really am, and buck up. Also, I guess I am one of those rare creatures who learn more from friends than from books!

Mrinalini: I study faster than my friends and I used to find it very annoying to wait around till they got to where I was. I know it sounds selfish, but we each have a different style and pace of studying, and when in a group, everyone ends up having to follow the slowest learner’s pace. It just isn’t time-effective!

Nikita: If you’re waiting for the others to catch up with you, it’s your cue to hit the video games or read a book, maybe? It will help you re-energise. Jokes apart, while I agree with what you say to an extent, when you factor in the time spent puzzling over doubts endlessly, group study is much more effective. Also, when you study with friends, you are exposed to different techniques of learning and gain new perspectives. I think this develops critical thinking skills.

Mrinalini: Okay, point taken. But, when you form a study group, you have to be committed to attending every session. This is too much of a hassle for me - I want to be able to choose when to study alone and when to study with friends, depending on my state of mind. I don’t want to feel obliged to attend anything!

Nikita: I was just coming to that… group study equips you to deal with the real world and real people and real situations. It teaches you a thing or two about team work. What say?

Mrinalini: Touché! But, I stick to my belief. Perhaps it varies with personality type. Some types are more receptive to group study; others, work better alone!

Well, parents… which side are you on? Pitch in with your comments!