Improve Your Learning By Teaching 

20 April 2021

You might be looking for new ways to improve your understanding of something you are studying. Perhaps you are seeking better methods to remember important information.

One way to help you reach these goals is to try teaching – not as a job, but as a way to improve your own learning.

In today's Education Tips, we will explore how teaching could help your studies.


Researchers and educators have been interested in the link between teaching and learning for quite some time.

A 1982 study found that tutoring helped both the tutors and the people who studied with them.

Tutoring means teaching one person or a very small group of students.

"Like the children they helped, the tutors gained a better understanding of and developed more positive attitudes toward the subject matter covered in the tutorial program," the researchers wrote.

Attitude is a term that means the way you think or feel about something.

Also in the 1980s, Jean-Pol Martin, a French teacher in Germany, developed a way of teaching that asked students to teach each other. Martin taught language classes, but he expanded his "Learning by Teaching" method, also called LdL, to include other subjects as well.

More recent studies

More recent studies have looked at the link between teaching and memory. A 2013 study, which we briefly described in a previous Education Tips, found that teaching had a strong effect on understanding and learning.

An important part of the study compared the learning results of people who actually taught a lesson to those who simply prepared but did not teach.

"Overall, these findings suggest that when students actually teach the content of a lesson, they develop a deeper and more persistent understanding of the material than from solely preparing to teach," the researchers wrote.

Persistent is a term that means continuing beyond the usual or expected amount of time.

Why Does Teaching Improve Learning?

Scientists have also explored the question of why teaching improves learning.

A 2018 study suggests that teaching may help your learning because you have to remember the information you have learned as you continue to teach. Experts call this "retrieval."

The researchers wrote that "retrieval practice possibly causes the learning benefits of teaching."

Practice is a term that means to do something over and over again to become better at it.

The basic idea is that if you want to improve your memory of what you have learned, you have to practice remembering that information.

While retrieval may be one reason that teaching helps learning, there could be other reasons. The issue remains an open question.

Ideas for how to start teaching

The good news is that there are many ways that you can improve your learning by teaching.

One way might be to teach your family or friends about something that you are learning. For example, you could teach your parents about English grammar or vocabulary.

You could also try teaching a younger person – perhaps a cousin, brother or sister. Try to make your lessons simple and clear, and ask them what they do not understand.

The process of teaching and asking for feedback will help you realize that you may not understand some things as well as you thought you did. That is an important, necessary step in the learning process.

Another idea is to imagine yourself describing a lesson to someone, or to write the lesson down. In the Guardian newspaper, David Robson suggests that you could write an email describing what you have learned in great detail.

A final idea for those who like technology: You could record video of yourself teaching information. You could then send the lesson to friends or put it on YouTube or some other social media service.

Give teaching a try and let us know if it improves your learning!

I'm John Russell.

John Russell reported on this story for Learning English. Bryan Lynn was the editor.


Words in This Story

positive adj. thinking about the good qualities of someone or something : thinking that a good result will happen : hopeful or optimistic

content – n. the ideas, facts, or images that are in a book, article, speech, movie, etc.

benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect

feedback – n. helpful information or criticism that is given to someone to say what can be done to improve a performance, product, etc.