Teach to Teach

Learning by teaching is extremely effective as a learning strategy but do we do enough of it?

After completing a peer teaching session, I thought I’d reflect on why it worked so well.

The research says that learning is enhanced through the act of teaching others; that students who spend time teaching what they’ve learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than students who simply regurgitate information. Why? Because teaching compels the teacher to retrieve what they’ve previously learned and to repurpose it in such a way that it can be passed on. Teaching requires the teacher to “know” their topic. So often, in an “oral presentation”, students rely heavily on their notes. Many just reiterate what they already know or what they can recall reading during their research. Often facts are incorrect due largely to a lack of understanding.

Teaching, however, leaves no gap for not knowing. Teaching requires the teacher to understand and to process in such a way that the material can be passed on logically. Teaching requires an element of engagement; of teachers knowing their audience and creating and delivering content appropriately.

Last week, my year 7 group researched an Asian storytelling method and taught this to their peers. We brainstormed and I asked them to consider, in their planning and development, what their teachers do now to “teach”. They responded: ask questions, show powerpoints, discuss, present information, provide an activity to reinforce the learning, get students to talk with each other or complete a joint task, etc. These year 7s were amazing! They used ppts, youtube extracts, modelled examples, asked peers to experience their method, used kahoot, created opportunities for peers to try new ideas – they were encouraging, positive, warm, knowledgeable and, as teachers, effective. They did not read from their notes, they did not stumble through disjointedly. They learnt so they could teach.

Don’t you love it when your lesson goes so much better than you’d anticipated!

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