Five things to do this summer: a Med Ed to-do list

This first year I worked in a post-secondary setting, I was somewhat bemused when students asked me how I was going to spend my summer – they were heading out on a three or four month “break” and assumed I was doing the same. Some had work plans, some travel, some both. Regardless, they would be away from campus and recharging their batteries, and, perhaps, expanding their perspectives in a variety of ways. I, however, would be at my desk.

Two decades and three universities later, I’m still working through much of the summer months as are many of my administration, staff, and faculty colleagues as we stagger vacations with other colleagues and other family members’ schedules.

For those of us at the School of Medicine (including our 2018 clerks!) who don’t have two or three months off this season but maybe a couple of weeks and the odd day here or there to make a long weekend – here’s my list of five things to do that are (loosely) related to medical education. (This list is best perused—and perhaps amended or augmented—while sitting on a patio with your favourite libation).

  1. Read something not related to your discipline

In the crush of academic terms, it’s easy to fall into the trap of reading for work, not for recreation. There’s always just one more journal article to be read, one more new text to review. One more thing to stay on top of. Vow to read at least one novel (or collection of short stories, or poetry) this summer. Regardless of genre, you’ll learn something of the human condition (which is at the heart of medicine and medical education) and it will refresh you, too. So, move it to the top of your To Be Read pile. Among my picks: a toss-up between finally reading at least one of the Harry Potter books, or Abraham Verghese’s Cutting for Stone. Maybe both. The Art of Adapting by Cassandra Dunn is also in the running.

  1. Binge watch a cooking show on the Food Network

Whether it’s TiVo’ed or Netflix, the ability to skip the ads is a godsend for a rainy Saturday’s binge-watching. Opt for something where you might pick up a recipe or tip or two, but pay attention to how the host explains what they’re doing. Is it conversational? Directive? Do you stay engaged? Or pick one of the competition shows (Chopped is my guilty pleasure) and check out how different judges give feedback. Some are brutal; some overly-kind without much substance. Some have thoughtful suggestions. Many adapt their critique delivery, based on the experience and competence levels of the chefs competing. How can this inform how you deliver feedback?

  1. Enlist some pals and build a sandcastle at the beach

Sandcastles are hands-on and best accomplished as a team effort. Building one requires both attention to details and a flexibility to accommodate the sand, water, and tide schedule. The plan is rarely ever 100% completed without modifications along the way. Plus, everybody gets dirty. And, at the end of the day, there’s nothing except pictures as the tide washes it away. So, a fresh slate the next day. And, we can take the lessons learned on to the next one.

  1. Hit the movie theatre to see a summer blockbuster

Enjoy the a/c and see something outrageous. Popcorn optional. Take note of if the story drags anywhere: did you get the urge to check your smart-phone (pre-movie admonishments aside). What made your attention wander? Was it an extraneous info-dump? An overly-long car chase? Just too much of something? A gap in knowledge? If you’re working on online modules for next year, take note of where the show lost you. Adapt this insight to material you create for your students.

  1. Watch some fireworks

Most of us know that fireworks were invented in China centuries ago. According to the “Fireworks University” website, this was an accident when a field kitchen cook happened to mix charcoal, sulphur and saltpeter. What a happy accident*.

There’s no great medical education insight to go with this watch fireworks suggestion: they’re just fun. And maybe that’s the insight right there.


 * (I feel obliged to stress the importance of  following all instructions for the at-home kind of fireworks and strongly urging you to show up for community fireworks shows instead. Avoid the unplanned side trip to the ER).

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Tackling your summer “To Be Read” pile

Do you have an ever-growing “to-be-read” (TBR) pile of books and journals that you’ve told yourself all year you’ll get to “in the summer”? And now it’s summer and the pile is daunting and the beach is calling. What to do? Try these five steps to get started.

Weeding the list (or culling the pile): If it’s been a while since you organized your list or your pile, don’t be afraid to remove titles. Your needs and interests may have changed in the intervening months. Also, if you start a book and find it’s not living up to its promise, ditch it. Why waste your time? I give a book 40-50 pages to impress me; otherwise, I move on. (This works for non-fiction and fiction alike).

Book time (sorry for the pun): We schedule times for meetings, but reading – even to keep up with our professions – often drops to the “squeeze it in somewhere” category. Consider scheduling 30 minutes a day of dedicated reading time. Can’t manage one half-hour slot? If it’s something you plan for, you could break it into two 15-minute chunks. Stow the book in your briefcase or make sure it’s downloaded to your eReader. Experiment to see what works.

Balancing interests: Sheila Pinchin shares that she uses two categories for her TBR list: Feed the Program and Feed the Soul. “This helps my priority lists and helps me balance profession and personal or other interests.”

Choose your own adventure: Sure, there are some books that require a start-to-finish reading strategy, but sometimes reading a single chapter can give us the information or tools we’re looking for. Sheila’s using this strategy for Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking, and Active Learning in the Classroom by John C. Bean. “It’s a wonderful but huge book,” she says. “I’m going to dip into the book at different parts, and just read a chapter or two as they strike my interest or need.” Make use of Introductions and Tables of Contents to find what’s relevant to you and just read that.

Let technology serve you: How can tools you already use help with your TBR list? I routinely use my iPhone to read journal articles in those “gap” times — when I’m early for an appointment or waiting to pick up one of my children from an activity. I also keep two folders on my computer desktop: “Journal Articles Unread” and “Journal Articles Read”. When I scan the e-versions of journals, I’ll save the PDFs to the Unread folder, then move them over when I’ve completed them. I use key subject words in my “Save as” file names.

Do you have a favourite way of managing your TBR pile? Is there an app or computer program or maybe a filing system that works for you? Please share!

Finally, here are (some of) the titles on the Education Team’s summer lists which might be of interest to you, too. (Sorry that this could add to your TBR pile!)

From Sheila Pinchin’s TBR Pile:

  • Engaging IdeasSee John C. Bean’s book, Engaging Ideas above. Two chapters that have caught my eye: Using small groups to coach thinking and teach disciplinary argument and Bringing more critical thinking into lectures and discussions.
  • Our Queen’s Meds SGL is founded on Team-Based Learning. A great book with ideas for all of us is Team-Based Learning for Health Professions Education, edited by Larry K. Michaelsen, et al. The frontpiece says “A guide to using small groups for improving learning” and they certainly carry through on that promise.
  • Medical Teacher’s newest edition has an article, “Developing questionnaires for educational research: AMEE guide no. 87” (2014, 36: 463-474). A lot of us are doing educational research and developing surveys. This article’s 7-step process looks very practicable.
  • “Assume hope all you who enter here.” This is the first line of Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed (2006) by Westley, Zimmerman and Patton. This book, “not for heroes or saints or perfectionists” helps us see how to harness the complex relationships to lead to change. Education is all about change…this is a wonderful read about “how to.”

From Eleni Katsoulas’ TBR List:

  • Screen shot 2014-07-07 at 2.41.26 PMRemediation in Medical Education by Adine Kalet and Calvin L. Chou. I have had this book for about a month now and only looked over the table of contents. My plan is to delve into it during my holidays next month but from what I can see it offers practical tips to remediation. Looking ahead: Dr. Michelle Gibson will give us some key points from this book in a later blog. 
  • Quiet by Susan Cain. This book comes highly recommended to me by a friend that works as a consultant for the school board. A must read that explores “the power of introverts in a world that cant stop talking”.

And from my own teetering stack:

  • Creating Self-regulated Learners by Linda B. Nilson. This is one of the goals of our curriculum. I bought this book back in February and have neglected it. I’m interested in Nilson’s strategies and if they can be applied in the UGME setting.
  • Where’s the Learning in Service-Learning by Janet Eyler and Dwight G. Giles, Jr. I’ve dipped into this one for work on a service-learning module for QuARMS, but I’m eager to delve into the whole thing. Formalizing service-learning in UGME curriculalifeanimated-216x300 could become increasingly important.
  • Life, Animated by Ron Suskind I read an excerpt of this book in the New York Times earlier this year. The author’s son, who has autism, used Disney movies to understand the world. It’s a story of resilience and innovation; of seeing the world through a different lens. Important lessons in whatever walk of life we find ourselves.
  • Mindset by Carol Dweck Although this book is about seven years old, it’s new to me. Dweck’s research on motivation is intriguing and could have application to our goal of creating self-regulated learners.

Send some suggestions from your TBR pile and… Happy Reading!

 

 

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