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Learning, Psychology, Uncategorized

Being a better learner

As a teacher I’m always on the look out for strategies that can improve learning. Also as a teacher, I’m constantly learning. I have definitely taught some topics that I am not an expert in. But, as I go to learn that topic, I learn it with the idea that I have to teach it. Well it turns out that this is actually a better learning strategy than learning to do well on a test.

In a recent study, participants who were told they were going to have to teach the content to someone else and more complete and better organized recall of the content compared to participants who only expected to write a test.

So here’s the challenge, from my experience students aren’t huge fans of teaching. This study focused on undergraduate students, which are largely the group that I work with these days. Trying to get them to engage in peer teaching is typically pretty painful. Although in this study the students never actually did teach anyone else. Both groups wrote the same test, you can only get away with that once in a classroom. For some of my students who were parents, they would pick up on things that related to questions their kids had asked them, but that strategy obviously means nothing for some of the content and for many of the students.

So, how can you either achieve the same outcomes without requiring them to teach someone else, or break down the barriers that prevent them from wanting to (or feeling comfortable enough to) teach someone else.

About Tai Munro

I am passionate about making science, sustainability, and sport accessible through engaging information and activities.


2 thoughts on “Being a better learner

  1. This is fascinating. What subject are you teaching? What if you randomly call on students from time to time out of the blue and say, “Jordan, explain to me how RNA transcription works.” And then they have 60 seconds to teach it to you and if they do so successfully they get a few points. Or what if you bring in a naive student who has not taken the class and call on students, giving them 60 seconds to teach the new student a concept or problem-solving heuristic. Then if the naive student is able to successfully answer a follow-up question about the topic you give the student who explained it a few points.


    Posted by andysquoteoftheday | May 10, 2016, 5:53 pm
    • Sorry, got a little behind. I work mainly with adult students and I find that one or two are comfortable with making spontaneous explanations, but the majority of students are so distracted by the pressure of trying to speak in front of everyone. Which raises the thought that we need to find more time for one to one interactions similar to times like students reading to their teacher in elementary school.


      Posted by Peyto | June 12, 2016, 9:42 pm

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