In a world, constantly seeking improvements on soft skills like effective communication and a seamless understanding of cultures, thoughts, and processes, teaching and learning, form two sides of the same penny. Teaching and learning is a cyclical process, and a lot of recent studies show that learning can be more effective if it is concurrently practiced with teaching. On that thought, let’s take a peek into a few facts which can give us a little clarity on the know-hows.
From time immemorial, we all have been subjected to the experimentation of the teaching-learning process being practiced together. School teachers often reward students who volunteer to reach up to the blackboard or the front of the class to solve a math problem or help the class understand a difficult concept. This, in turn, instills in the student, a sense of self-confidence as well as acts as a reinforcement for the memory. It is often observed that such students do comparatively better in academics as they barely forget the concepts they had explained to their peers.
Now, let’s build a perspective towards this process from the educator’s or teacher’s side. Apart from arts subjects like literature, history, and civics, most of the other subjects in different verticals of academics are dynamic. This means that subjects like Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Accountancy, Taxation, and the vast majority of subjects are constantly subjected to a considerable amount of research. Hence, there is a constant upgrade that is happening to them. Therefore, teachers of such subjects who teach for over 3 decades of their lifetime, often have to go through an immense amount of learning themselves, to continue teaching the same subject. To put things in perspective, the kind of math that we studied in high school or under-grad is substantially different from the kind of math our parents did.
Similarly, as businesses develop, new avenues are explored, commercial and business studies change as well. But, do we ever come across a teacher who stops teaching because a subject is getting too difficult? If that would have been the case, we would have run out of teachers. Therefore, we can now objectively understand that teaching and learning in-fact, are 2 concurrent processes. Teachers upgrade themselves subconsciously and sometimes consciously, constantly while teaching.
Now, let’s look at the most complex yet beautiful creation of nature, sitting right on top of our shoulders, the human brain. Our brain has a memory retention process in which all our conscious experiences, are stored into parts of our subconscious brain. It is a medically proven fact that if we revisit the same experiences within 72 hours, it gets registered in our brain forever. Therefore, the joy of learning through teaching is infinite. It builds a sense of accomplishment and helps us improve our knowledge.
A lot of countries have adopted the “leaning-by-teaching” process very effectively. For example, the Germans use the concept of “Lernen durch Lehren” (learning-through-teaching) right from elementary school. In this process, students are told to prepare elaborate lesson plans, to help their peers, learn using their self-prepared notes or study material. Teaching not only builds multiple perspectives to a concept but also exposes one mind to a multitude of minds. One idea may combine with another and result in a breakthrough. That is how most scientific discoveries have been made. Ever wondered what the word “et-al” means, suffixed after the names of famous scientists and authors? It means “others” or “team”. No discovery that changed human civilization was made single-handedly.
Most scientists, mathematicians, doctors, and brilliant brains around the globe prefer to teach at some point in their careers or like to work with a team of students. This is a known technique adopted by many to spark new ideas and see things through other people’s perspectives and develop a new angle to a problem at hand. Doctors work in teams often headed by a senior doctor and followed by a group of residents or interns. This helps the lead, gain more insights into the case, as each student helps him learn as he teaches them. FrequentfFeedbacks are a good way to assess the effectiveness of such exercises.
Another complete delight of learning through teaching is, it helps us be more honest with ourselves. This is how. While learning, we can fool ourselves into thinking that we have a complete understanding of a concept or an idea before we understand it. If we can successfully solve a couple of problems, we think we are all set. On the contrary, we might have just brushed the surface with a couple of easy problems and we didn’t hit the boundary of our understanding. Teaching removes such possibilities of self-deceit.
Precisely, our students will always remove such misconceptions for us. They often end up asking random questions, along with all sorts of What ifs that we won’t be able to handle without a deep conceptual understanding of the subject matter we are teaching. This situation of being forced to grapple with these challenging questions, and brainstorming to come up with the best possible answers out for ourselves and others, which makes teaching such a powerful tool and joyous experience for cementing our understanding of a subject.
Teaching also forces us to communicate our thoughts clearly and precisely. As society becomes ever more interlocked and interdependent, cooperation becomes more and more important. This cooperation requires communication; however, being heard is not enough. We all crave to be understood. Our ideas will never be more effective than our ability to make others comprehend them. Teaching helps us develop this extremely important soft skill of describing ideas well enough for others to comprehend.
Most religions and cultures around the world developed through this concurrent learning and teaching process. For instance, Buddhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, etc. the list is long and exhaustive. All our beliefs are a result of teachings and sermons passed down to us over generations, the rules have been tweaked and twisted with time as we learned and taught depending upon the needs of the changing tides of time. From a tiny ant to a goliath of a whale, all life forms subject themselves to this process. So, why don’t we, the most complex and consciously intelligent life form on the planet, try? Teaching does wonders for learning. Let’s give it an honest try!