George Bernard Shaw couldn’t have been further from the truth when he wrote, “ “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” In fact, teaching assists you in acquiring “chains of connected ideas” that deepen your understanding of the material at hand!
Teaching is a Set of Conditions
When asked why I shifted my career from being a silversmith and sculptor to becoming a Montessori educator, I rely on my standard, “Because education has the potential to change the world.” While this is true, after learning what I have about the science behind teaching I’d have to add that I teach because I am curious. Teaching is self-rewarding in that it fuels my lifelong learning and I learn more from teaching than I do from learning!
Three conditions of teaching that create a confluence of opportunities for learning include a motivating sense of responsibility for another’s learning, the need to organize and explain information, and being open to feedback gained either from student performance or other mechanisms.
In order to be able to teach a topic, one needs to know it well to be able to explain it to others and troubleshoot difficulties in understanding. In the process of teaching, knowledge is solidified through deeper connections making it easier to recall in the future. Cohen, Kulik, & Kulik (1982) recognized that 87% of the studies regarding peer teaching showed as many benefits for the teacher as the student!
Peer Teaching Benefits Both the Tutor and the Tutee
Teaching is a neuro strategy built into the structure of Montessori pedagogy through the preparation of the guide and mixed age groups. Researchers Oppezo & Schwartz studied how peer teaching benefits both the tutor and the tutee calling this The Protégé Effect.
Montessori methodology takes advantage of this in its multi-age classroom groupings. Older students who have already mastered works and lessons often share their expertise with younger children, something that reinforces the lessons for the older child and insures that they know their stuff. It also provides a mentoring relationship for the younger child, who receives help from an esteemed peer as opposed to an adult teacher. Thus, the Montessori method taps into natural social dynamics to deepen the learning for the older child while giving the younger child a less intimidating, more collaborative experience.
“The main thing is that the groups should contain different ages, because it has great influence on the cultural development of the child. This is obtained by the relations of the children among themselves. You cannot imagine how well a young child learns from an older child; how patient the older child is with the difficulties of the younger.” –Dr. Maria Montessori, The Child, Society, and the World
Why does this work? When you learn something new for yourself, you focus in on just the task at hand and you learn the content. Yet when you’re learning to teach it to another, a meta-cognizance of how to best communicate the information takes place, deepening your understanding of the concept.
Quick Tips for Amplifying Teaching
Here’s a strategy for applying implicit peer teaching into an activity (think Upper Elementary through adult education):
Jigsaw Peer Teaching Strategy
- Separate into specialized groups
- Each group delves into the topic
- Half of each group tutors half of another group about what they learned
If you’re not already encouraging peer teaching in your classroom or school environment, think about what The Protégé Effect can affect!
– By Tammy Oesting
Our ABCs of Learning: Montessori Edition is inspired by the work of authors Daniel L. Schwartz, Jessica Tsang and Kristen Blair, Professors of Education at Stanford University’s book The ABCs of How We Learn: 26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use which was reviewed on our Great Titles for Educators web page.