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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Teamwork is less work

When started vet school, one thing that was reiterated over and over and over was that we would NOT be able to do this on our own.  "This" encompassed our lectures, our labs, working in the hospital in our 4th year, and practicing as a veterinarian after graduation. 

A good friend of mine, a retired doctor, told me that I needed a small study group, not only for studying, but for the other benefits it would give me such as social and emotional support.

With this in mind, one of the first things I did once we got settled in school was ask 2 friends to be part of my study group.

The group has evolved several times since it has formed, each time putting a little more trust in the other members and making it possible for all of us to enjoy school a little more and be more efficient at integrating the large amount of material being taught.

In the beginning, we all brought summaries of lectures, with answers to the given learning objectives.  We would discuss the learning objectives and make sure we had all gotten the same information.

Soon, we couldn't keep up with the number of lectures  and still create comprehensive lecture summaries.

Our strategy now is to "sign up" for lectures.  Out of an average of 3-4 lectures a day, each of us may do 1-2.  Then, we share those lecture summaries with the other members.  It's wonderful because it allows each of us to pace ourselves - I can work really hard in one lecture, getting all the detail, and then after the lecture answer learning objectives and organize the information into tables and other "visual aids" that organize information- and only have to do that once a day instead of 4 times. 

Each of us is still in all the lecture and are still paying attention (except right now - as I'm writing a blog post instead of paying attention!).  Most of the time I'm still taking notes on lectures that aren't "mine" - but I'm not as stressed about getting every detail, because I know my friend over there will get it and I can add it later.  Not being as stressed makes it easier to learn the information.  There are some lectures that it's just better to close the computer and LISTEN and WATCH.  I can do that too - knowing that I'll still have notes for study purposes.

Individually, each of us takes the lecture summaries and creates a comprehensive "study guide" for tests that combines all the lectures into a document.  Thus we organize the information individually for how each of our brains learn the information best. 

There's no shortcut to learning - but sometimes there's a more efficient way.

There's a significant amount of trust that is required using this method.  I'm trusting that my friends will get everything significant onto the notes.  And that they don't make major mistakes in the understanding of the material.

However, in my opinion any downsides are FAR outweighed by the advantages
1.  More time for us to study, and review, and talk about the information, rather than compiling and organizing lecture notes.

2.  Lowered stress, which encourages the learning process and decreases mistakes.

3.  More than one perspective in the notes and information - more often than not my friends' knowledge compliments mine and we both learn more than we could on our own, even when we didn't know we had a hole in our understanding in the first place!!!!!!

4.  The freedom to get the most out of each lecture - because I'm not required to take comprehensive notes 100% of the time.

5.  Lasting relationships with people in my class and a sense of community/companionship that does not come without trust. 

6.  Keeps all 3 of us on task and current on the information.  When I have 2 other people depending on me to provide a lecture summary, I'm much more likely to do it in a timely manner.

7.  Motivates me to look up details for accuracy and to complete the "picture" being taught in lecture.  Again, although my friends may have taken their own notes, if I signed up for a lecture I feel responsible to provide as complete and accurate information as possible.  This means that I often take extra time to look up information and include additional helpful diagrams and tables that are in textbooks, or that I create. I have time for this because I'm not expected to do this for every lecture - just 1/3 of them.  As a result I have a complete and better understanding of the subject which is good for MY learning - but also for my group's learning.  If there's a question, often the person that wrote up the lecture summary can answer and clarify it because they did extra research.

What does all this have to do with Endurance?

Endurance can be a very solitary sport.  You don't *have* to work as a team.  However, I think that the experience will be much more rewarding and more successful is you take a deep breath and take the plunge into teamwork.  It doesn't have to be formal.  It helps if the people on your "team" are about the same level and have the same goals.  This group is separate from your "mentor" relationship.  I think it can be tough to find that group - it might be a local friend or two, or a regional organization, or a club.  Maybe you have the unfortunate luck to have NO ONE around you, so you choose to participate in an online community.

The are 3 important relationships in life/activity:
- the mentor relationship
- the peer relationship
- the mentoree relationship

I think endurance riders are better at being a mentor, or recognizing that they need a mentor, and perhaps do not recognize the value of the peer relationship.

I encourage you to take a look at your "endurance relationships".  Which one is missing?  The convention may be the perfect place to find that relationship and make this season the best one yet.


  1. I wish this type of model had been part of my schooling!

  2. That is a really impressive team-study strategy. Attending all those lectures does sound like an endurance feat.


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