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Can Teaching Someone Help in Learning?

You have to appear for an exam in the coming week. To score well, you think about reading the chapter repeatedly. Wait… is there a better way to master the topic?

Research says that you should find someone and teach them the topic. It can be any person you know: your sibling, friend, or anyone else. By teaching them, you would understand well. Let us see how. 

A study conducted at the National University of Singapore tells us teaching a lesson to others helps in learning. We must think and reflect on the topic when teaching another person. Recalling from memory by thinking enables us to remember concepts longer. 

The research was carried on by Wei Lun Koh, Sze Chi Lee, and Wee Hun Lim from the Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore. They wanted to know how teaching someone can make a person a better learner.  

The researchers divided the number of undergraduate students into four groups. They gave all groups 10 minutes to go through reading material on the topic “Doppler Effect.” The researchers asked all groups to study and prepare to teach an audience. After this, each group was asked to perform a task as given in Table 1.

Note: Only the Teaching Group and Retrieval Practice Group were given tasks that required active thinking on the topic.

After a week, the four groups came back to appear for a final comprehension test on the same topic, i.e., “Doppler Effect.” The two groups that had to think and remember what they had learned during the study/preparation stage excelled in the test. Table 2 shows how much each group scored on the final test. 

The results of the experiment supported what the researchers initially thought. We need to think about a topic while teaching another person to get the learning benefits. 

When we retrieve concepts from what we already know, we modify our memory and build knowledge in our brain. New reflections get added to our prior knowledge. We get the same benefit by performing activities that challenge us to think about the material during learning. E.g., By filling in the blanks, asking and answering questions, etc.

How to Make Use of ‘Teaching as Learning’ in the Classroom?

1) Move Beyond Notes For Class Presentations: The group that had to teach without any aids scored higher than the one that used teaching aids. Ask kids to make class presentations without using notes. This habit will compel them to think about the material while speaking rather than simply reading out.  

2) Prefer Questioning Sessions over Revision: Participants who practiced retrieving by exercises such as filling in the blanks or answering questions scored higher. 

Similarly, you can conduct question-based sessions in the classroom. The teacher and students can put questions to each other. This method would work better than a mere revision of the topic.

Open Door’s Thinking Classroom gives children the space to think about topics they study in class. These beautiful questions provoke thinking by putting classroom topics in real-world settings. You can integrate these workbooks with your classrooms as it will help children go over the topics and look at them with fresh eyes. 

3) Encourage Questions During A Lecture: Asking questions during lectures or reading will help students reflect on what they already know. Encourage kids to ask questions during lectures. This technique is more effective than reading the text over and over with them. 

4)  Students Can Teach Lower Grades: As an activity, let the students of senior grades teach junior kids (3-4 grades lower than them). This situation can be a win-win for both groups. A senior kid can be instructed to come prepared and make a presentation. They will benefit from the questions posed by junior kids. Junior kids will be more comfortable interacting with fellow students. A teacher can help guide the conversation from one topic to the next. 

5) Cluster System: Divide children into clusters for a given topic. Don’t teach the topic. Provide children with learning material, books, etc., and ask them to discuss and reflect. After 5-6 days, take a test for the class and give awards to the top-scoring cluster. This activity will motivate children to teach each other

How Can I Become a Good Teacher and Learner at the Same Time?

1) Take Help from a Variety of Study Material: As a teacher, you may sometimes get bogged down from teaching the same topic from the same books every year. The material may cease to inspire ideas or generate new reflections for you. 

Schools can support your learning by giving them new books, worksheets, and assessments even if the topic remains the same. 

When you teach using new material, you will have to study and reflect from scratch. You will enjoy going through the new material and preparing yourself before facing the students. 

2) Prepare Beforehand: If you put more questions to yourself while preparing for a class, you’ll feel compelled to understand the topic well. 

To explain so that students can understand, you need to ask if you agree with the information. This sort of reflection can create deeper connections in your mind.

To get the best results from your teaching session, think about the material from different angles. When you prepare material this way, you won’t need to use any notes for the presentation. This practice will help you remember the material better. 

3) Pre-empt Student Queries: Pre-empt all the questions children may ask in the upcoming classes. If you can think from the point of view of curious children, you will need to reflect on all possibilities for a topic. 

4) Don’t Depend on Teaching Aids: The research suggests that the learning effect works only when the teacher practices retrieving, e.g., when you teach from memory and without reading out from a book. However, it does not work when the teacher merely summarizes knowledge without reflecting upon the concept. 

You will not learn much by merely summarizing topics or telling definitions from notes or teaching aids. Because this way, you are not compelled to reflect on what you already know and retrieve it from memory. 

Open Door encourages thinking over rote learning. Like the study quoted here, Open Door’s products challenge children to explore various possibilities and go beyond the textbook examples. You can learn more about our products by clicking here

Want To Learn? Try the Feynman Way!

Have you heard of the Feynman Technique? According to Feynman, the best way to understand something is by explaining it to a 12-year-old.

You can practice this by describing the material before entering the classroom. Try teaching it to yourself. But avoid using any complex terms, jargon, or technical words. Use only the words that a child would understand. 

As you explain the material repeatedly, you will discover the parts where you struggle or feel you have to start again. These are your knowledge gaps. Improve on them and practice explaining until you have the most straightforward version possible.

You can read the complete research at:,%20lee,%20&%20lim%20(2018).pdf


Manish Dubey

Manish is a Business Associate at Open Door. He believes in the transformative power of education and thinks that every teacher can be a role model for children.

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