Expecting to teach enhances learning and organization of knowledge in free recall of text passages

Very interesting confirmation of something that all teachers know – that the best way to learn is to teach. This uses an experimental method that shows much less than it could and claims much more than it shows.  The researchers have simply shown better memory retention by learners in one particular task due to the expectation of having to teach others. But it’s still useful evidence that is supported by several educational theories and it helps to confirm the value of teachback. As they suggest (though apparently unaware that this is a widespread practice) pedagogies that make use of this phenomenon work well and are highly efficient.


The present research assessed the potential effects of expecting to teach on learning. In two experiments, participants studied passages either in preparation for a later test or in preparation for teaching the passage to another student who would then be tested. In reality, all participants were tested, and no one actually engaged in teaching. Participants expecting to teach produced more complete and better organized free recall of the passage (Experiment 1) and, in general, correctly answered more questions about the passage than did participants expecting a test (Experiment 1), particularly questions covering main points (Experiment 2), consistent with their having engaged in more effective learning strategies. Instilling an expectation to teach thus seems to be a simple, inexpensive intervention with the potential to increase learning efficiency at home and in the classroom.

Address of the bookmark: http://link.springer.com/article/10.3758/s13421-014-0416-z#page-1

I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology and teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems, of which I am the Chair. I am married, with two grown-up children, and live in beautiful Vancouver.

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