Recently I began an online course through Coursera, Learning How to Learn. I've been interested in advances in neuroscience for awhile, and some of that field has concentrated on trying to understand how people learn, what works, and what doesn't. Learning How to Learn, taught by Dr. Barbara Oakley and Dr. Terrence Sejnowski brings together the latest information in the field. Using clear explanations and examples, they have put together a four-week course that provides incredibly useful techniques for improving your learning and deepening your understanding of topics.
As part of this course, there is an assignment to help deepen your understanding of the material by explaining and educating others about some of the topics in the course. This blog post (and some future ones) is part of that assignment.
Teaching as Learning
I'd heard the phrase "The best way to learn something is to teach it" before, but is it true? And if so, why?
"While we teach, we learn", said Roman philosopher Seneca. What is now called the "protege effect", students who taught others scored higher on tests than those learning on their own. Teaching forces you to work harder to understand the material, allowing you to recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively.
As an example, the very act of writing this blog post, recalling information from the course and other sources and attempting to explain it helps increase my own understanding of the topic. Attempting to recall and explain something strengthens the neurological connections in the brain. Improving through teaching.