Jumpstart your productivity with affinity-centered study groups
The Stanford Learning Lab's student groups are in full swing this quarter, including ADHD Connections, Fail Better, Focus Fridays, Gently Up The Stream (GUTS), Peer Engagement Network (PEN), Power Hour, and Revise & Resubmit (R&R).
Productivity. It’s a destination that research tells us can be easier to reach when working with others.
The Stanford Learning Lab offers communities centered around several affinity topics, including productivity. ADHD Connections, Fail Better, Focus Fridays, Gently Up The Stream (GUTS), Peer Engagement Network (PEN), Power Hour, and Revise & Resubmit (R&R) are all in full swing this fall quarter. The Stanford Learning Lab’s Learning Specialists have particular expertise supporting students with learning differences/disabilities and helping frosh and transfer students transition to academic life on campus, though their services are open to all students. Groups offer rolling registration, so students can join anytime.
When LLIT Program Director Aillie McKeever was conceptualizing the student group she dubbed GUTS, she was thinking about conversations across her five years at Stanford. “I was seeing a pattern in students talking about a desire to not follow the herd, to not conform,” she says. “I really admire this quality in many of the students to go against the grain or to swim upstream, and I was thinking about a way that we might honor this quality more and practice it on purpose.”
GUTS is currently practicing for 30 minutes each week from 1 – 1:30 pm on Tuesdays, and it’s open to any Stanford undergrad or grad. Quotations, clips, and soundbytes provide fodder for students to reflect on the work they’re doing. “It’s meant to be grounding,” says McKeever. “It’s a little carved out time for reconnecting with purpose on an individualized basis. Students are also asked to think about what they need to cut or eliminate from their expectations for the week to make time to attend to their inner compasses.”
Students are invited to tune into what’s right for them, their guidance systems, and to honor their voices. That being said, students are welcome to share their findings with the group or listen to others without feeling obligated to share. “There’s encouragement to write down what you’re thinking about. It’s really an individualized exercise in community. I recognize that a lot of the work that might come up during this short meeting is personal, and that’s why I don’t want anyone to feel that they have to disclose it,” she says.
One particular focal point is letting go of what’s not working. “Disrupting comes up a lot – disrupting the old tired patterns that we’ve all been taught. A lot of our students can see solutions that other people tend to miss, and there’s not always an audience or room to follow those instincts. That’s also a piece of this practice: noticing the solutions and finding ways to actually implement them,” McKeever says. Within the group’s half hour, there’s time and space to pause and gather regenerative energy to continue building authentic leadership qualities.
Students find community around academic productivity in the Learning Lab’s Power Hour – offered to all Stanford students and meeting four nights a week – Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday – from 8 – 9 pm online.
“So right at a time when most people want to work,” says the group’s host, Stanford sophomore Julia Lasiota. “In the session, students want to work on their assignments or tasks, whatever that might be, join together and at first we share the goals that we have for that session.”
In particular, Lasiota notes the importance of process goals – setting the intention not necessarily to finish editing a paper but to engage deeply with the process of editing for a set amount of time. While leaving cameras on is encouraged from the perspective of building community and accountability, students can leave them on or off during the session.
The act of working with others enhances a feeling of accountability and leads to reduced off-task behaviors. “After 50 minutes, we do a reflection on how the session went for us, what worked, what didn’t, and anything else that comes to mind about what the process was like,” she says. The closing reflection is key: The Learning Lab team finds that metacognition about academic work leads to reiterating practices that are leading to success and moving away from approaches that aren’t as useful.
While she is also the host, Lasiota gathers the benefits: “I can do Power Hour at the same time because I also get my work done with the others, so I really enjoy having that set time in the day for most of the week where I know I will sit and get my assignments done. That honestly has taken a lot off my plate,” she says. “I totally recommend it to other people to join because once you set it in stone and you commit to, you know, having that time in your day, you get so many more things done and you don’t have to stress about them in advance because you know that you will have the time for sure.”
Lasiota enjoyed working with friends in informal study hangouts in the past and wanted to become the Power Hour Host in order to provide a regular opportunity for meetings. “I want it to be an inclusive space where you can just share what the process is really like for you,” she says. She invites students to join for one or many sessions depending on their schedules and needs.
Learning Specialist Mitch Dandignac’s goal when creating the Revise & Resubmit (R&R) group was to let writers know they aren’t alone in their struggles: “I wanted to start a writing group just for graduate students because of my own experience in graduate school writing my thesis and my dissertation. During that time, I felt like my writing process was very isolated.”
“Grad. school is a time to grow as an independent, autonomous worker – that is true – but also, it’s helpful to have resources to break up that flow as well and lean on others, so I wanted to create a weekly graduate writing community here at Stanford,” he says, noting that the group meets on Wednesdays from 10 – 11 am in a hybrid format.
As for the name R&R, which is often associated with rest and relaxation, Dandignac says, “It’s a tongue-in-cheek name because if you are a scholar who publishes work, you are probably very familiar with that phrase, revise and resubmit, because we often hear it when we submit our work for publication and it doesn’t pass peer review all the way, and you necessarily need to make some corrections.”
In the R&R space, students work diligently on those edits – as well as talk about sticking points, aspects of craft, and what’s easing their processes. Graduate students are invited to bring any writing projects – whether a dissertation, grant proposal, fellowship application, or shorter assignment for a class – to work on. Students hail from all different fields.
The group is not just a place for getting words on the page, but also addressing the emotional and psychological aspects of academic writing. It’s a community for shared perseverance. “We get writers’ block at times. We all run into those roadblocks, but we often just think it’s just us doing this or like a small select few, but really, that’s just the normal part of the writing process, and everyone has received that feedback at some point, or you will at some point, if you’re a scholar, that you need to revise and resubmit your work. It’s important to try to normalize that process,” Dandignac says.
For the first part of the session, students respond to a prompt like, what do you do when you get writers’ block?, then share responses that are rich with strategies and shared experiences. Next, students jump into the writing process itself and get work done in two 20-minute bursts – whether that’s planning, outlining, editing, or putting fresh language on the page.
“We check in at the end, and we’re trying to rely on and leverage that social presence, the idea that you’re not writing alone in this session. You are writing alongside other people as a support mechanism and, also, just to make a change of pace,” he says.
Dandignac also goal sets and works on academic writing himself during the session in the spirit of solidarity.
Like all of the Learning Lab’s student groups, he says, “Attendance is not mandatory once you do [start]. I would encourage everyone to attend pretty regularly just to make it part of your routine, but you attend the group on an as needed basis and use it in whichever way that you think is most helpful.”
For more information on all of the Stanford Learning Lab’s student groups and to register, please visit: learninglab.stanford.edu/student-groups