Study Less, Study Smart – Tip 5: Teach what you Learn

I’ve always liked to say to my students that if you can explain something to another person, you probably know it well. Well, as it turns out, Dr. Marty Lobdell would agree with me. This is part 5 on a series summarizing Dr. Marty Lobdell’s 7 tips on how to “study less, study smart.”

In the previous post we went over how to review your lecture notes. In this post  we’re going to learn about how teaching what you’ve just learned will make the information stick in your head.

Dr. Lobdell says that one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. Yes, his 5th tip is to teach what you learn (or what you think you’ve learned). There are two main reasons for this. First, it’s a great form of active studying. When you teach, you must force your brain to recall all the information so you can summarize or paraphrase it for someone. You already know from my video on active learning that paraphrasing is a great way to test your ability to recall, and teaching is basically taking this one step further. Note that if you can only recognize facts and concepts, you won’t be capable of teaching them. Teaching requires the ability to recall information and ideas – both quickly and easily.

A second reason for teaching others is that by doing it, you’re confirming (or making sure) that you really understand the subject. If you’re explaining something to someone who has no idea about the topic, then you have to be able to explain things very clearly to that person. And if you want to be able to explain something clearly, you’ll be forced to identify things that you may not know very well. You might have to go back to your notes to review them. This is a good thing, because you have realized that you don’t know as much as you thought you knew!

I think there is also a third reason to learn by teaching others. You would be helping another classmate or classmates who are having trouble learning the facts or concepts. I’m sure those people in your class who are struggling to learn would be grateful for your help.

It’s as simple as that – teaching others is effective because you are practicing paraphrasing and summarizing, because you come to recognize that their may be gaps in your understanding, and because you’re helping others.

In the next post from this series (part 6), I’ll explain something called the SQ4R method, which is all about how to learn best from your textbooks or readings.

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