“You’ll need to teach this” better than “There will be a test” for remembering (again)

No, this research doesn’t proof that this Loch Ness monster of education is correct (I mean the learning pyramid), but this research also suggests what an earlier study described earlier on: teaching others helps to learn more for the person teaching, but not because of the reasons you might think. To put it too bluntly: pupils remember more if you tell them they will need to teach others about it than if you tell them that there will be a test.

The researchers –Nestojko et al. – from this new study formulate a very interesting conclusion (bold by me):

Expecting to teach appears to encourage effective learning strategies such as seeking out key points and organizing information into a coherent structure. Our results suggest that students also turn to these types of effective learning strategies when they expect to teach. It is noteworthy, then, that when students instead expect to be tested, they underutilize these strategies, although our results clearly indicate that these strategies must be available to them and, furthermore, would better serve their presumed goal of achieving good test performance than do the strategies they instead adopt for this purpose. Students seem to have a toolbox of effective study strategies that, unless prodded to do so, they do not use.

Oh, and do note that the implications for teaching are limited:

Admittedly, the deceptive version of teaching-expectancy employed in the present report would not work in classroom settings, because students would quickly catch on that they would not ever be required to teach. Perhaps informing the classroom that at least one student among them will be required to teach—but not revealing which student—would prompt all students to prepare as if they will have to teach.

Abstract of the study:

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.

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