Learning through Teaching

Children should be given opportunities to teach.

After covering a topic in my science classes, I often role-play as a student who doesn’t know anything about it and ask my students to teach it back to me. I often act confused, as if I need a great deal of clarification. This is an excellent method of evaluating a student’s understanding of a topic, but that’s not the only benefit.

A girl teaching something to her classmates

Teaching Improves Understanding and Retention

Anyone who has taught something, especially repeatedly, is likely to have felt like they had a deeper understanding of the subject afterwards. This has been well studied. A recent study suggested that teaching improves knowledge retention because it makes you practice retrieving things from your memory.

Teaching also sheds light on your own understanding of a topic. Sometimes, we think we know things better than we do, and only realize the limits of our understanding when we try to teach it.

Teaching Improves Communication

Have you ever spoken to someone and not been able to follow their argument, only to have them get frustrated? People often forget that others do not have all knowledge and biases in their head that they do, so they can get confused and sometimes even upset when other people cannot understand something that feels very clear to them.

When kids get to teach—especially when they teach children younger than them—they learn that the things that are clear to them are not always clear to others. This allows them to develop the ability to express ideas without making assumptions about the listener’s knowledge.

Children studying together

Students should be encouraged to teach because it boosts their understanding, allows them to realize the limits of their own knowledge, and hones their communication skills. It equips them with essential life skills that extend far beyond the classroom.