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How to Teach Your Students to Teach Others

August 28, 2019

Do you find it hard to keep up with all of the learning science research popping up across your Twitter feed? Well, there is a “secret” learning strategy you already use every day that could significantly improve your students’ grades… called learning by teaching!

Learning by teaching (also known as the protégé effect) is an underutilized strategy with significant results. The concept is simple: when you explain something to someone else, you understand it better. As educators, we get this. The more we teach a concept to students, the better we understand it and the more confident we become. 

Recently I spoke with PowerMyLearning, a nonprofit pioneering this strategy in Family Playlists™. I first wrote about Family Playlists last year, and I’m excited to feature them again in this post. Family Playlists are multilingual, mobile-friendly homework assignments. They have students teach what they are learning to a family partner at home. 

Learning by teaching (aka the protégé effect) is an underutilized strategy with significant results. Check out a startegy to transform your teaching!
Students at Ditmas Jr High in Brooklyn, New York prepare to teach their dad using a PowerMyLearning Family Playlist about energy in motion.

Learning By Teaching

This concept of learning by teaching can transform your current practice. Let’s take a look at three reasons to start using the learning by teaching strategy alongside the awesome Family Playlists.

Strengthen student understanding

Education Researcher Richard Mayer conducted a random control trial that compared groups of students who used the learning by teaching strategy with those who do not. He found that students who teach others what they learned, develop significantly higher comprehension and a deeper, more persistent understanding of the material than students who do not teach others. The effect size he found is equivalent to a 1.7-grade leap.

Why is this? The steps required to teach a concept – taking the material, mentally re-organizing it, and integrating it with what you already know – lead to making sense of that concept. When students teach someone else, they also field questions. As they elaborate on the material, address misunderstandings, and monitor their own understanding, students build knowledge and construct long-term understanding. 

Turn students into confident leaders

Teaching others can improve student efficacy, confidence, and communication skills. When students teach someone else, they develop higher self-efficacy and productive beliefs about themselves as competent learners. They also practice valuable social skills like how to communicate with others. 

You could tie these to your social-emotional goals for the school year too! With Family Playlists, students communicate with someone they trust (their family partners) in a safe environment (at home), so they feel more confident. 

Extend learning outside the classroom 

We know that students learn best when their families engage in their learning. Because the student is doing the “teaching,” Family Playlists give all families the opportunity to participate in their child’s education, not just the few who know how to talk about math or science.

With Family Playlists, families send meaningful feedback to the teacher on how confident their child was teaching the concept. Many parents report a sense of pride in seeing their child “teach” them. This feedback brings the teacher inside the student’s home. It provides a clearer understanding of the student as a whole child. The teacher then uses the data to better meet students’ needs.

Learning by teaching (aka the protégé effect) is an underutilized strategy with significant results. Check out a startegy to transform your teaching!

Getting Started with Family Playlists

Want to bring Family Playlists to your school? For a limited time, you can get Family Playlists and personalized professional development through PowerMyLearning’s New Family Engagement Innovators Program, supported by 5X match. Start your project today while funding lasts! 

Also, check out this totally free resource! You can send home prompts with students to engage their families in learning: 6 Conversation Prompts for Families to Make Homework Time Easier.

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Dr. Monica Burns is a former classroom teacher, Author, Speaker, and Curriculum & EdTech Consultant. Visit her site ClassTechTips.com for more ideas on how to become a tech-savvy teacher.

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