Learning is not one-size-fits all. There are different ways people learn the information presented to them. Some, for example, are visual learners who want to see tangible examples in front of them. Others, meanwhile, are solitary learners who prefer to lock themselves in a room with a book in hand to study on their own. On the other hand, there are students who excel best when they are learning with a group.
Teaching is one way to learn. It is a common misconception that teaching and learning are two separate things but, the truth is, they are not. In reality, teaching and learning are intrinsically intertwined. There is no learning without teaching and no teaching when there is no learning.
Educators do not stop learning when they leave university and assume the role of a teacher. Throughout their respective careers, they, too, learn. They try, test, and figure out strategies that will more effectively deliver knowledge in the classroom in ways that will keep students engaged and more receptive. They constantly modify their approach to teaching based on the individual needs of the class. They update and evolve their own knowledge to be able to impart accurate and relevant teachings to young learners.
The opposite is also true. Students learn by teaching and, in some ways, it is the best way for them to retain information. Here is how it works.
A Different Approach to Teaching
Singapore, in particular, has been the envy in the West. Singaporeans grow up to become well-rounded adults who are hard workers, problem-solvers, and achievers. They are in high demand all over the world and get hired by some of the best companies in the U.S. or the UK.
For this reason, many families are choosing to send their children to a school on the island. There areInternational and American schools in Singapore which, although primarily have foreign students, espouse the same methods that Singaporean educators use to teach.
How different is learning in Singapore? Consider Singapore Math, a program that has received interest across many nations. Singapore Math is not concerned about drilling formulas into the memory of students. It aims to build an in-depth understanding of the subject. By the time they reach the more difficult lessons, they have all the tools they need to understand them.
Teaching is Understanding
Students having an in-depth understanding of a subject is what educators should be aiming for, but it is more difficult to assess whether the goal has been reached. This is where teaching could be helpful.
Previous studies have shown that learning-by-teaching improves not only understanding but retention of the lesson.
In one recently-published paper, researchers recruited about 124 students and instructed them to study a text about the Doppler Effect, a topic that none of them were acquainted with before. The participants were grouped into four. One group was filmed delivering lessons on the material for five minutes without notes. Another group stood up and taught verbatim from a set script. The remaining groups either spend the time doing multiplication arithmetic or writing down all they could remember from the lesson.
A week later, the participants were called to the lab for a surprise test. The group that taught without script outperformed those who did multiplication arithmetic or those who had a script. The performance of those who wrote down what they can remember from the test was notable because it was comparable to those who tried the learning-by-teaching method.
Another study assessed whether the learning-by-teaching method will really develop a deeper and longer-lasting appreciation of the lesson. They found that the gains were short when the student prepared to teach alone. It was more effective when the student actually taught another person.
Teaching Contributes to Learning
The reasons why learning-by-teaching is providing positive results are still unknown, but experts posit that it is because the student is forced to internalize the material before communicating it to others. They do not rely on notes or a script before the exam. When the audience, for example, asks a question, they have to reach deep into the lesson to provide an answer.
But, the explanation might not be as complicated as everyone thinks. Other experts propose that, when they are expected to teach a lesson, students prepare better. They read and reread the material, do further research, memorize terms, etc. to have stronger grapes of the lesson. That way, they would not be caught unable to explain or answer a concept or question to the audience.
Learning, like shoes or jeans, is not one-size-fits-all. Everyone has their own preferred way of absorbing the information presented before them in school or in daily life.
Educators, therefore, should be open to adapt different strategies and techniques to impart a much deeper appreciation and understanding of a lesson to students. Only by using different methods, be it Singapore Math or learning-by-teaching, will students get the chance to master, not just memorize, the subject.