Learning by Teaching: the key to a deeper learning experience

Did you know that first-born children are apparently more intelligent than their younger siblings?

In two studies published in the journals Science and Intelligence, researchers found that first-borns exhibit a higher IQ. But they aren’t simply born brighter; they’ve worked at it – their higher IQ is strongly linked to the time they’ve spent teaching their younger brothers and sisters.

Learning by teaching

But if you’re not a first-born child, don’t worry. These findings can still offer you a massive consolation in your student life; namely, that teaching makes you a better learner because it makes you work harder to understand, remember and apply what you are studying.

According to John Nestojko, a psychologist at Washington University in St. Louis, “when teachers are prepared to teach they tend to seek key points and structure information in a consistent manner.”

So why not use this in our individual learning journeys?

Given that education is undergoing a noticeable shift, there is no better time to become teachers so that we can become better learners.

In the traditional classroom setting, students attend class to learn. Teachers not only rule the roost – they control how information is packaged and disseminated.

However, as technology advances and new learning tools are introduced, traditional classes face a new challenge: they must find a way to build a learning society in which education is shared by all, both teachers and students alike.

How to Learn by Teaching

One of the most effective ways of learning by teaching others is through working with younger students. To pass on information to them, it’s often necessary to re-learn the things we thought we knew.

The idea of students teaching students is one that the University of Pennsylvania put to use when it launched a new cascade mentoring program that saw university computer science students teaching senior high school students, who in turn passed on their learning to junior high school students.

Although the implementation of programs like this would no doubt improve students’ teaching skills, a formal program is not necessary in order to gain some teaching practice. For instance, any student who is interested in learning by teaching need only look to their fellow students and volunteer to help those who might require assistance.

Another great way to learn by teaching (and perhaps earn some extra money in the process!) is by tutoring. It’s normally quite easy to get started: simply place some ads in the relevant places (social media pages, the school website, forums, local papers, etc.) and get in touch with students who are looking to improve their results.

As we saw at the start of this article, helping a younger sibling or family member can also be very effective as being able to transmit knowledge to another person requires being able to structure our thoughts on a topic and make sure we fully understand the lesson we’re passing on.

We can do this with our classmates too. In doing so we get to begin a process of active and collaborative learning in which all students benefit from sharing their knowledge and helping their colleagues.

Creating an Online Study Group is one quick and easy way for developing your teaching technique. Simply select the settings that suit best for learning individually or in groups, then discuss ideas or share the study resources you’ve created using GoConqr.

And if you want to move even further into the role of a teacher, you can also create quizzes and measure the progress of members in your group to see how effective your learning materials are proving to be and how they can be made even better. As with classroom teachers, it’s likely that you’ll find that the best lessons and teaching strategies are developed over time through trial and error. But every time you refine your learning resources, you’ll be refining your understanding of the topic at hand too.

As none other than Albert Einstein once said:

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

When we are studying, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we have learned all we need to know. We may do some exercises and score well in a few classroom tests, but do we really understand what we are learning? Education should be continuous. Teaching others removes the possibility of self-deception and shows us exactly how much we know and how well we understand it.

Have you improved your learning through teaching? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.


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