TEACHING AS LEARNING
“Education is an admirable thing ,but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught” —Oscar Wilde.
Russell L. Ackoff tells a wonderful story in the podcast for the book he wrote with Daniel Greenberg “Turning Learning Right Side Up”—-‘After lecturing to undergraduates at a major university , Iwas accosted by a student who had attended the lecture. After some complimentary remarks he asked, “How long ago did you teach your first class?” I responded ,”In September of 1941.” “Wow!” The student said, “You mean to say you have been teaching for more than 60 years.” “Yes”. “When did you last teach a course in a subject that existed when you were a student?” This difficult question required some thought. After a pause , I said,”September of 1951.” “Wow ! you mean to say that everything you have taught in more than 50 years was not taught to you; you had to learn on your own?” “Right.” “You must be a pretty good learner.” I modestly agreed. The student then said,” What a shame you’re not that a good teacher.”
The story rightly tells that to become a teacher one has to require the ability to learn, not the ability to teach. But it is found that we learn mostly in outside of formal education. Even teachers learn most of what they teach outside of formal education. The learning by teaching effect has been demonstrated in many studies. One who spends time teaching what he/she has learned go on to show better understanding and knowledge retention than one who simply spends the same time re-studying. What remains unresolved, however, is exactly why teaching helps the teachers better understand and retain what they’ve learned teaching improves the teacher’s learning because it compels the teachers to retrieve what they have previously studied. In other words , they believe the learning benefit of teaching is simply another manifestation of the well-known ‘testing effect’-the way that bringing to mind what we have previously studied leads to deeper and longer lasting acquisition of that information than more time spent passively re-studying.
The benefits of the learning by teaching strategy are attributable to retrieval practice; that is, the robust learning by teaching strategy works but only when the teaching involves retrieving the taught materials. Our ideas will never be more effective than our ability to make others comprehend them. Teaching helps us develop the extremely important skill of describing our ideas well enough for others to use them. Teaching is not just good for those we help; it is good for us too. We can recognize many situations in our daily lives in which we have learned by teaching others. And as teachers , we have experiences of having learned something in order to teach our students, or we have learned through helping students to learn. It seems that learning something for oneself and learning to teach others involve different mental processes. Gartner, Kohler and Riessmann synthesized the cognitive benefits that seem to arise in the course of learning to teach. At this stage , the teacher or tutor must revise the material, organize the material for presentation and identify the basic structure. Everything suggests that we are starting to find evidence and have sufficient knowledge to understand the potential of learning by teaching. Providing evidence to support this possibility may have important implications for formal and higher education. The learning by teaching has effects on teaching performance itself or how teachers can learn by teaching their students. We learn by teaching , and so one of the best ways to teach is to turn students into teachers. Teaching produces learning by not only forcing the teachers to learn the material himself or herself , but also by forcing the teachers to , as Ackoff says,” figure out how to link their frame of reference to the world view of the person receiving the explanation , so that the explanation can make sense to that person , too.” The explainer must circle around the topic to understand it, and thus get underneath it in a way that produces a deeper understanding for themselves.
Consider the ways that we can turn our students into teachers , and thus learners. Teaching and learning are closely interconnected in many ways. In some cases, a person learns when another person teaches him. The extent to which people learn , though , depends on the quality of the teaching. A good teacher is someone who takes the time to get to know their specific students and their needs and how they learn . in this way , the amount the students learn can be maximized. In this sense , a teacher is also always learning while teaching , as a teacher must learn how to reach their students most effectively.in addition , a person can also learn something by teaching it. By teaching something to others , a person verifies that they understand the material very deeply. Only when someone understands a subject or material at this deep level are they able teach it to others. Therefore, teaching and learning are closely connected. Effective teaching is one that will bring about the intended learning outcome. For thousands of years , people have known that the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. Now scientists are bringing this ancient wisdom up to date, documenting exactly why teaching is such a fruitful way to learn-and designing innovative ways for young people to engage in instruction. Above all, it is the emotions elicited by teaching that make it such a powerful vehicle for learning.
As these trends become generalized and teaching skills start to be highly regarded and evaluated, we would be faced with the emergence of a new skill that would help to build a sustainable and democratic knowledge society , where we all learn from everyone and we all teach each other. Great masters have been quoted on the matter over the years:”Teaching is learning”(Seneca); “He who teaches , learns “(Comenius) or “To teach is to learn twice”(Joubert). In his work Frank Oppenheimer followed the well known old Latin principle, “Docendo discimus” –“the best way to learn is to teach”.