Monday 13 June 2022

The Protege Effect

 By Alyssa J. Montgomery

I have always found the romance writing community to be incredibly generous in terms of support and encouragement. Fellow writers have constantly been prepared to share knowledge and experiences. Although I am still honing my skills, I have always been happy to try to assist others along the road to publication when the opportunity presents and to share any knowledge I've gleaned. 

This past weekend I've just finished co-teaching a writing course. When it wrapped up, we received a lot of very positive feedback and gratitude from course participants. However, we were both left feeling we had gained as much, if not more, than we had given. 

Image from PixaBay

The term "Protege Effect" is the effect that when we teach, we explain ideas to others and this reinforces our own understanding. There have been numerous studies done which demonstrate the effect. In one I recall reading about, two groups of students were taught exactly the same material. Prior to the lesson, one group of students were told they would be tested on the material; the others were told they would need to teach the material. Although no teaching was ever required, both groups were asked to complete a test at the end of the lecture. The group who had been told they would need to teach the subject matter were found to have more correct responses and generally better recall.

The course I co-presented was one for beginner writers in the 25+ age bracket. The subjects we covered included characterisation, character development, plotting, Goal/Motivation/Conflict etc. All very basic writing topics that authors 'know' and hopefully understand and apply instinctively. However having to teach on these topics sent me back to notes and textbooks so I could make sure I imparted the subject matter concisely and accurately. Reviewing the topics reinforced and perhaps deepened my understanding. I wanted to make certain of my knowledge and to ensure I didn't have gaps in these areas.

Through teaching, I re-discovered things I already knew and solidified my  knowledge. The ensuing questions and discussion on the topics with the course participants also gave me some new insights into things which I hadn't considered.

                                                                                         Image of Seneca courtesy of Pixabay

The philosopher, Seneca, said "While we teach we learn". It's true that I've learnt again in my preparation of the course material. I've also had my mind opened to other angles on the subjects through the discussion with, and questions from, the participants.

One of the aims of the course was that the participants would go forward and form their own writing support/critique group. Part of encouraging them to gain confidence in critiquing each others work and accepting the critiques of others involved time to critique their work. Again, this was beneficial because critiquing the work of others can make us aware of flaws or weaknesses in our own writing styles. 

It felt great to be able to (hopefully) help aspiring authors along on their journey to publication. It was lovely to meet this enthusiastic and very talented group of writers and I benefited from this course by reviewing basic writing topics and principles. After a long hiatus from writing (due to the time demands from my professional speech pathology hat), I felt like a writer again and have been re-energised to write. 

                                         Image courtesy of Pixabay

In an internet article, "Small Things and the Surprising Benefits of Teaching others" (, Robb Stevens writes:

           "A candle loses none of its own light by lighting another.

            In fact, lighting another candle only adds more light."

I love candlelight. Let's not be a single flame but use the light we've been given and, whenever we can, let's keep lighting some more!

 Image courtesy of Pixabay

Would love to hear of your thoughts and experiences.

Love to love encouraging others on their journey to publication.

Love to laugh as I recount some of the mistakes I made on my journey to publication.

Love to learn through teaching others.