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Rev Up Your Group Study

Published August 3, 2021


Year after year, instructors report that their number one classroom frustration is underprepared students. By this, they can mean “prepared” for class today or “prepared” for a college science course in general.

For the last decade or so, I have studied both issues and consulted hypothesis-driven research conducted by hundreds of scientists and pedagogy experts. A few remedies for the “not prepared for class today” have risen again and again to the surface, and one of them is (effective) group study. Interestingly, group study is also one way to mitigate some of the issues associated with a poor overall preparation for college-level science. (Note: This is group study, not group projects or group work.)

Group study can increase learning for many reasons; here are several reasons:

  1. Teaching a peer is a highly effective method for learning
  2. Learning from a peer can be more effective than learning from an instructor
  3. Students can witness and learn other peoples’ study methods and strategies
  4. Students with lower reading abilities get a significant boost from group study
  5. Struggling in isolation is more likely to lead to low confidence, poor performance, and even course withdrawal.


You’ll notice I said effective group study. Many students do not report that their group study sessions are useful. The number one reason for this is that it can lack structure and easily devolve into a hang-out rather than a study session.

In this short (14 min) video, I will talk to your students about how to study together effectively. This is hands-free for you! Your involvement can end once you make this video available to them. I discuss some easy tools they can start using immediately. You can download and assign this video in Connect by clicking on “Add Assignment”, Web Activity, add this URL:  And click on assign.

It’s suitable for all students, but students using either of the Cowan microbiology textbooks will have a group study guide titled “Study Smarter: Better Together” specific for each chapter’s contents that they can use as a template.

In Microbiology, A Systems Approach, 6th edition, Study Smarter is in the body of the text, at the end of every chapter. It appears on the Connect site under Instructor Resources, chapter by chapter if you are using Fundamentals of Microbiology, 4th edition.

Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical Approach 4th Edition

Microbiology Fundamentals: A Clinical Approach

4th Edition
Microbiology: A Systems Approach 6th Edition

Microbiology: A Systems Approach

6th Edition

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About the Author

Kelly Cowan has taught at Miami University since 1993 and was the Middletown Campus Dean from 2005-2009. She was interim director at the local campus of Cincinnati State and Technical College for 2015. She is the author of two successful McGraw-Hill microbiology textbooks. Her interest in under-resourced students led her to her now full-time engagement in two arenas: 1) with students and residents in generational poverty; and 2) with institutions - civic and educational - who serve them. Kelly grew up in eastern Kentucky and was educated at the University of Louisville, the University of Maryland, and the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. She founded a large non-profit in Middletown that supports the cradle-to-career education of under-resourced families helping them move to self-sufficiency. Kelly is also available, schedule permitting, to speak on these topics at your school, at no or little cost to you. To contact Kelly, please visit her website at

Profile Photo of Kelly Cowan