Study Group Selfie: Building a Community and Fostering a Sense of Belonging

An example of a study group selfie photo from the author's chemistry course taken in a laboratory setting

As teachers, we are likely all trying to build a healthy learning community within our classrooms. And as teachers, we additionally encourage students to form chemistry study groups. I also want students to have a sense of belonging within the chemistry class and laboratory. There is one, simple way of encouraging students to form study groups, to help students feel like they belong, and build a chemistry community within your class: the Study Group Selfie.

Educational research shows that students that work together in study groups perform better on formal assessments (exams).1 The Study Group Selfie is a fun way to encourage students to form a study group. I typically make it a small stakes assignment (or extra credit assignment) with a few points added on. The assignment details are found below:

Instructions to students:
1. form a study group in preparation for the next quiz or exam 
2. take a study group selfie
3. upload the photo to Canvas by insert date here
4. include in the submission the following:
     a. selfie photo (1.5 pts )
     b. names of study group members
     c. brief description of what the study group is studying (1.5 pts )

The origins of the Study Group Selfie began pre-COVID when classes met in person and more recently as classes have been fully online or hybrid. Below are some examples of selfie photos that student groups have submitted over the years.

Figure 1. An example of an in-person study group selfie from the author's chemistry class before COVID.

Figure 2. A recent Study Group Selfie now that the author's chemistry classes have moved into a fully online format.

Figure 3. By far, the author's favorite Study Group Selfie. Students were having fun with the assignment in order to appease the 'chemistry gods'. This diverse group of students took and submitted this photo of their own accord and verbally stated that they were having fun- which is one of the unwritten objectives of this outside class activity. The author notes that this group has kept in touch as friends and colleagues for two years after this photo was taken. Cool!

If you want to try this out with your students, please do so and I encourage you to submit your favorite Selfie Photo in the comments section!

Literature Cited
1. Stone, et al. (2018) Improving the Success of First Term General Chemistry Students at a Liberal Arts Institution. Educ. Sci. 8(1);