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The Power of Teaching

Setting the Stage

In her book “Teach Yourself How to Learn”, learning strategies expert Saundra Yancy McGuire asks students: “For which task would you work harder?”

  • Make a A on the test
  • Teach the material to the class

How would you answer this question? Most likely, you would work harder if you knew you had to teach the material to the class. While fear of embarrassment is real, many students also bring up factors like “If I’m going to teach it, I have to think of questions I might be asked and make sure I can answer them”, or “I want to make sure everybody understands and is prepared for the test, so I need to figure out how to explain the information in more than one way.” Basically, if you are going to be able to teach the material, you have to have a very good understanding of it yourself!

Teach to Learn

Attempting to explain information you’ve learned to someone else (a classmate, a family member, even a pet or toy) will help you find any gaps in your knowledge. Even better, you’ll find them before taking an exam or quiz—rather than during! This means you’ll have time to bolster your understanding by revisiting your notes or the textbook, asking peers in a study group, or talking with your TA or professor during office hours.

When teaching your lesson, make sure to:

  • Give a brief overview of how the topic fits into the rest of the course material
  • Describe important ideas and define vocabulary words
  • Explain the solutions to related example problems
  • Compare and contrast different scenarios 
  • Listen to yourself describing the concepts to your “class”: 
    • Does your explanation make sense when you hear it out loud? 
    • Can you think of alternative ways to explain it? 
  • Make a note of topics you can successfully explain as well as those you need to work on

Information in the Catalyze Your Success program has been adapted from learning strategies presented by the Louisiana State University Center for Academic Success and the book "Teach Students How to Learn" by Saundra Yancy McGuire, Stylus Publishing (2021).