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Kristi Wolf: Students benefit from small study groups

Kristi Wolf, the new Gown & Town columnist from Merced College.
SUN-STAR PHOTO BY BEA AHBECK Kristi Wolf, the new Gown & Town columnist from Merced College. Merced Sun-Star

Sitting in Sunday school a couple weeks ago, the pastor asked us, "Why did Jesus frequently leave the crowds to talk alone with his disciples?" I answered, "Maybe because He knew their need for more in-depth, one-on-one teaching." These 12 men who left everything to follow Jesus around for three years were the ones who were going to go on teaching after Jesus was gone.

A church setting is not unlike a classroom. Just as a congregation of believers gathers on Sunday morning to listen to the pastor's sermon, students gather daily, once, twice or three times a week in the classroom for the teacher's lecture.

Sometimes though, that simply isn't enough.

The church has long employed the idea of not only congregational meeting -- similar to classroom teaching through lecture -- but also small group study. Our Sunday school meetings at our church are just that -- small group study.

Small groups or study groups are a better way of interaction where everyone has a chance to voice his observations of the text being studied. Everyone in the group benefits because various views are heard, and each person can make her own determination of what the text means to her.

I have been in study groups in high school and now in college. My first study group in college was while I was taking American Sign Language. If you've ever taken a language class, (and ASL is no different), it is a full-immersion language class. That means that no English is spoken in the class; it is completely taught in ASL, French, German, Hmong, Japanese, Spanish or whatever language you are learning. Students can be very intimidated by this, but I can tell you: it is the best way to learn it.

But sometimes the student needs more instruction outside the class. This is where study groups really help. I am a firm believer in these types of groups. In a language class, typically everyone in the study group has about the same amount of knowledge of vocabulary as everyone else in the group. You are able to communicate in the target language and help one another with problem spots. Grammar is what generally gets me.

The first thing to starting a study group is to find a place to meet. Merced College has a beautiful new library on the Merced campus, also known as the Learning Resource Center (LRC). It is huge with lots of open study areas with tables. The seating area easy chairs are extremely comfortable, and it's a fine place to just relax and read. There are tons of books and other resources, more than 70 computer stations available for research or homework. Not only do the computers provide Internet access but also have Microsoft Office applications, perfect for completing those homework assignments, and the librarians are knowledgeable and especially helpful.

The LRC has 12 student study rooms which are ideal for small groups or for individual study. These study rooms have chairs around a large table, large enough for about eight people. I highly recommend these rooms for study groups.

The next important factor of a study group is to be open-minded with peer advice. No one is perfect and we all make mistakes. Study groups help us understand why we may not understand a concept or get the point of a lecture. Your peers can many times provide useful insight. It is certainly nothing to be ashamed of when someone corrects something you've done, said or written. Take the constructive criticism humbly and with an open mind. Don't let your emotions rule your actions. Your peers generally are just trying to help.

This is a good lesson to learn while you are in school because it will happen many times in the workplace. Get used to it now. Constructive criticism is good when delivered with the right intent. Take it and learn from it.

If you are the one delivering it, do so in humility and not to show off or degrade. Remember, it could be you on the receiving end one day.

Kristi Wolf is a full-time secretary and student at Merced College, majoring in administrative office management, with aspirations of being a writer.