People recall more and learn better when they expect to teach that information to another person, a new study finds.
The research, published in the journal Memory & Cognition, gave some participants the impression they would have to teach someone else a text after they’d learned it themselves (Nestojko et al., 2014).
A comparison group were told they would simply be tested on the information they’d learned.
In fact both groups were given the same test afterwards and neither group had to teach the written materials to anyone else.
Dr. John Nestojko, the study’s lead author, explained the results:
“When compared to learners expecting a test, learners expecting to teach recalled more material correctly, they organized their recall more effectively and they had better memory for especially important information.
The immediate implication is that the mindset of the student before and during learning can have a significant impact on learning, and that positively altering a student’s mindset can be effectively achieved through rather simple instructions.”
The likely reason why this fairly simple trick works is that it tends to automatically activate more successful learning strategies, the kind routinely used by teachers.
The authors explain:
“When teachers prepare to teach, they tend to seek out key points and organize information into a coherent structure.
Our results suggest that students also turn to these types of effective learning strategies when they expect to teach.” (Nestojko et al., 2014).
Organising information and placing it within a coherent structure are vital components of effective learning.
Psychologists call this ‘relational processing’:
“Relational processing — processing the relationships amongst units of information — is proposed to enhance recall by increasing the elements incorporated into memory traces and by allowing for an effective search strategy at the time of retrieval via generative, reconstructive means.[…] [a] higher degree of output organization displayed by our teaching-expectancy participants reflects their greater relational processing at encoding.” (Nestojko et al., 2014).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Image credit: BK