Teaching to Learn

Last week I wrote that teaching is also a powerful learning experience for the teacher and that you can use this fact to help your learners by encouraging them to use the process known as self-explanation:

 Anyone who has ever taught can relate to this. To figure out how best to explain something to someone else you first have to explain it to yourself.

Right after I published that blog post I came across this study:

Teaching to Learn

Here is the actual study.

In this experiment two groups studied a passage. Group A was told that they would be tested on the material but Group B was told that they were going to be required to teach the material to others.  In reality, both groups were tested. They were given tests of free recall of the passage and a short answer test. Group B significantly outperformed Group A on the tests, even though they did not know they were going to be tested. They demonstrated better organization of the material and better recall of main points (but not detail points).

So how do you incorporate this into your training strategy? For live training, either in-person or virtual, you could instruct your learners to be prepared to teach what you have taught them. For a class of 10 or more students this likely wouldn’t be entirely practical. Time constraints wouldn’t permit it. The authors suggest another more practical way to do this: Tell the learners to prepare to teach the material but that you will randomly ask only one student to actually do the “teaching.” In this way all have to prepare.

For on-line courses you could, at the end of each lesson or module, ask all of the learners to fill in open-response text boxes summarizing — in their own words, as if they were teaching it to others — what they have just learned. If you have the time, read them all and comment. If not, as with the live training, let the learners know that you are going to randomly select a subset to read.

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