Tool #05: Learn Through Teaching
The Problem: You think you know the subject. Your study it. You are familiar with it. You are immersed in it. But only when you attempt to teach the subject will you realize where you fall short. Everything changes when it is time to teach what you think you know. The fact is that deeper learning requires elements of teaching what you are learning.
The Tools: The teaching element of learning is not limited to the formal instruction of others, as a narrow use of the word teaching may suggest. Instead, the teaching element entails an intentional internalization and re-presentation of your subject. Here are a few ways that you can learn by teaching:
- Writing about your subject causes you to put what you have internalized into your own words. It forces you to make your ideas clear. It is intentional, specific, and displays in black and white what you know.
- Talking about your subject, formally or informally, allows you to interact with the ideas in a way that forces you to verbalize what you know.
- Explaining your subject to others allows you to adapt your material so that it can be understood by people at different levels of understanding. Your focus is to bring others to a fuller understanding; starting simply and going deeper.
- Rephrasing the ideas within your subject is crucial. Seek to own the idea for yourself by putting it into your own words, using your own illustrations, and presenting it from a fresh perspective.
- Summarizing by formulating concise verbal summaries of certain points allows your subject to be distilled in its simplest and purest form in your mind.
- Reviewing books on your subject is useful in extracting the key ideas from authors. This forces you to summarize and rephrase the ideas of others, which helps make them your own.
- Formal Teaching is the truest test. This may begin with a few individuals or a small group, and then grow to something more substantial - but perhaps here is where you can learn the most. Do those listening grasp what you are saying? Are your ideas bringing clarity - or confusion? The real-time feedback and "post-mortem" feedback from teaching opportunities can be the most useful means of learning.
What teaching tools do you recommend? What helps you to make your subject your own?
A book worth checking out that helps reinforce good communication is How to Speak, How to Listen by Mortimer J. Adler.