Over the last five years, “co-operative learning” has become a buzz phrase in higher education, with most institutions scrambling to expand group study into nearly every classroom.

But as new study theories abound, what about the actual physical space where students study?
Although there is far less research in this area, many educators are strong proponents of finding a “third space” — aside from your couch, office or classroom — where students can devote nearly 100 percent of their attention to the task at hand.

The very act of creating the space can help to develop good habits.

“There’s some real value in ritualizing getting into the study mode,” says Lynn Beck, dean of education at University of the Pacific. “Having a specific space dedicated to that is key. One of the things we do know from research is that productivity really drops when we’re multi-tasking.”

Professor Joseph Murray at Bucknell University has studied how we study for over 10 years. He is a strong proponent of tailoring the study environment for each course. For instance, if you will be using a bluebook in your exam and will take the test along with a large class, that is precisely what you want to mimic:?Study in a crowded library, writing longhand in a notebook.

“Research suggests that a trial run or a dress rehearsal significantly increases test results for students,” says Murray. “And we know that the closer that dress-rehearsal matches the actual physical attributes of the test, the better students tend to do on it.”

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