The construction of two college study groups

Althier Margaret Lazar, University of Pennsylvania


This research looked at two groups of university students who studied calculus together during their first semester of school. It focused on naturally occurring instances of peer study, inviting readers to examine one of the most enigmatic kinds of collaborative learning environments--those which are student-initiated, student-directed, and created outside of the classroom. To understand more about the nature of peer group study, ethnographic research tools were used to explore two questions: (1) How did two groups of students construct group study environments together? and, (2) What were the social factors which influenced study group participation? Students' participation in study groups was motivated by their desire to succeed at the University, which had much to do with their cultural identities and the interplay between these and the wider societal conditions related to survival and success in the professional marketplace. The fact that study group activity was part of students' academic success strategy had much to do with some of the structures and expectations of the University and the relationship between these and student's particular orientations, experiences and goals. Two characteristics of peers were cited as being especially important in distinguishing peer groups from other learning groups where members have explicitly different roles. This study reported that negotiation of roles and the sharing of relationships beyond academic encounters influenced the way peers studied together. These two broad characteristics shaped the way study group members privileged certain language forms when mediating their own and other's understanding of academic material. While students in both peer study groups negotiated roles and maintained social relationships, each peer learning context was unique, and therefore, each offered different opportunities for its members to engage in academic discourse.

Subject Area

Higher education|Educational psychology

Recommended Citation

Lazar, Althier Margaret, "The construction of two college study groups" (1993). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9331811.