Image Source – Miss Emily goes bananas
In the post “Knowing When You’ve Learned Something“, I explored how to make sure you really know a concept before an exam. Mostly, I talked about making up questions for fake students as if you were the professor giving an exam. A friend of mine mentioned to me another helpful tip for internalizing the material you study: by teaching it.
Those batty old professors were on to something!
It’s been said by countless professors that they understood their material best only after having taught it. Why is this? I hypothesize that it probably has something to do with making the knowledge your own. When you have to teach something, you tend to think about the material and then put into your own words to tell someone. I think it’s that act of digesting and then producing the new material that really helps to learn it.
It’s a sensational way of learning
Of course, there’s also the utilization of most of your senses when lecturing or teaching someone. You are speaking the lecture and simultaneously hearing yourself recite the lecture. That’s two senses. You are probably writing some things on a whiteboard, or maybe reading from a PowerPoint slide. That’s another two to make four. Now, I don’t know what to say about smelling the lecture. Maybe if it’s an anatomy-physiology lecture you’ll be smelling the formaldehyde and triggering those anatomy lab memories. 🙂
You don’t have to give an official lecture to have this work for you. Just pretending that you have an audience, while writing and explaining a concept out loud and writing on a white-board or paper would help.