FSGs: Student FAQs

1. What are FSGs?

FSGs are Facilitated Study Groups, a resource offered by the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre at UTM. FSGs are study sessions run by volunteer senior students who have previously done well in the course. These study sessions focus upon the skills required to be successful in the course. For instance, the FSG Leaders can assist you in developing problem solving, note taking, and critical thinking skills in the context of the course material. Each session is an opportunity for you to work on understanding and applying your knowledge. However, FSG Leaders do not teach course content to students nor do they give answers to homework or assist students with their assignments. The leaders are there to help you become both active and independent lifelong learners.

2. Is FSG attendance mandatory?

No, FSG attendance is not mandatory. They are a free resource available for students to attend if they choose to.

3. Am I being marked on what I do in an FSG?

No, you will not be marked on the work you do in an FSG. The FSG is a place where students work together with their FSG Leader on study skills that are required to be successful in the course.

4. Why should I attend FSGs?

FSGs are an excellent place for students to meet other people and study together. Students will have the opportunity to form learning communities while developing a variety of study skills. In addition, the FSG Leader will assist in structuring the session so that the learning is meaningful and relevant. There is also research on FSGs that shows that students who regularly attend these sessions earn higher grades than their peers who do not attend FSGs (Burmeister, 2013). Students who attend FSGs also develop their critical thinking, organization, and problem solving skills which leads to greater success in their academic career (Burmeister, 2013).

5. Do I have to regularly attend these sessions or should I just go when I need help?

It is your choice how regularly you attend the FSG sessions. However, it would be beneficial to attend regularly as you will have a better understanding of how an FSG works and have more opportunities to practice your skills in a collaborative setting.

6. How often should I be attending FSGs to help with my grade in the course?

FSG attendance is voluntary and your attendance depends on your schedule and learning needs. However, our analysis of FSGs and student grades from the past have shown that students who attend more frequently tend to average higher marks than those who do not attend.

7. Do I get bonus marks for attending FSGs?

Please refer to your course syllabus for how you are being assessed in your course.

8. Do my Professors or Teaching Assistants know if I am attending FSGs?

No, Professors and Teaching Assistants are not told if you are attending FSGs or not.

9. Why is my student number taken for attendance?

At each FSG session, FSG Leaders will take attendance by collecting student numbers. We collect student numbers as data to measure the effectiveness of attending FSG sessions. At the end of each term, we review the aggregated data to see when students are more likely to attend sessions and the effects of attending FSGs on their final course mark. However, we never release the identity of the students who have attended the FSGs and we do not match student names with student numbers in this statistical analysis.

For further information on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), please click for our privacy policy.

10. How is an FSG Leader (Facilitator) different from a Teaching Assistant?

A Teaching Assistant is typically an undergraduate or graduate student who works with your Course Instructor to teach course content and mark assignments. Teaching Assistants focus on teaching the content of the course as determined by the Course Instructor. You can ask your Teaching Assistants to go over course material with you and you can ask them for help on your assignments.

FSG Leaders, on the other hand, are senior students who have previously taken and were successful in the course. They volunteer their time to create study sessions that focus upon skill development that is essential to doing well in the course. Each FSG Leader has been trained in collaborative and active learning strategies to structure their sessions around learning skills in the context of the course material. The sessions they organize can be centred on a variety of skills such as learning styles, critical thinking, organization, note taking, and problem solving. FSG Leaders do not give answers or go over course assignments. Their main goal is to assist students in developing study skills with the course content as a platform.

11. What are the differences between lectures, tutorials, and FSGs?

Lectures and tutorials are typically run by Course Instructors and Teaching Assistants. They are classes where you learn and are tested on course content. FSGs, on the other hand, focus on developing skills that are essential to the course. Each session is collaborative and provides you with the opportunity to work with your peers to create a strong and meaningful understanding of the course material. FSG Leaders do not teach course material or provide answers to assignments.

12. Do I learn new material in FSGs?

In FSGs, you will not be learning any new course material. However, you may learn new strategies or skills that are related to the current course content that can facilitate your success in the course.

13. Will FSG Leaders give me answers to exams, midterms, homework, or help me with assignments?

FSG Leaders do not give students answers to exams, midterms, homework, or proofread your assignments. Specific questions on course assessments should be directed to either your Course Instructor or Teaching Assistant.

14. Are there any rules that I need to know and follow when attending FSGs?

At all times, students are required to abide by the University of Toronto’s Code of Student Conduct (http://www.viceprovoststudents.utoronto.ca/publicationsandpolicies/codeofstudentconduct.htm). In addition, the FSG is a shared space for all the students who attend, so mutual respect for the learning experience of others is essential.

For further information on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA), please click visit the following webpage: http://www.utm.utoronto.ca/governance/fippa-freedom-information-and-protection-privacy-act-information.

15. How can I become an FSG Leader?

After successfully completing a course, you can express your interest in becoming an FSG Leader in any of the following ways:

1. You can let the Course Instructor know that you are interested in becoming an FSG Leader.

2. You can contact the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre at academicskills.utm@utoronto.ca, and let us know what course(s) you would like to be an FSG Leader for and what your availability for running an FSG session would be.

Please note that to be an FSG Leader, you should have earned at least an A grade in the course(s) that you want to work with and be in Good Academic Standing. Alternatively, the Robert Gillespie Academic Skills Centre may receive a recommendation from the Course Instructor to suggest a student as a candidate to be an FSG Leader. There will also be approximately 15 hours of mandatory initial FSG Leader training.

16. If there are multiple FSGs for a course each week, will the same concepts be covered in each session?

FGS leaders will try to run the sessions in accordance with the pace of the course. This means that as the week progresses, the sessions could cover different material. FSG leaders also aim to create sessions that are beneficial for the students attending, which will also influence the exercises and activities that will occur during the session. The idea of these sessions is to progress in accordance with the course, while acknowledging student understanding of course concepts.


Burmeister, S. (2013). Supplemental instruction: An interview with Deanna Martin. Journal of Developmental Education, 20 (1), 22-26.