Learning is a lifelong activity.
And it’s something we need to do if we want to survive in this fast-paced world where technologies change every few years and as a result, the demand for skills changes too.
As the recent pandemic has shown us, even businesses that we assumed would always function in a physical form have been forced to shift from brick and mortar stores to digital eCommerce stores.
Small business owners and individuals have had to start websites and pick up digital skills to serve customers online and to become visible.
And many people have had to quickly change careers if the current crisis situation affected their jobs.
Learning new skills and being mentally sharp is critical for survival. And the sooner we can pick up new knowledge, the faster we can adjust to environmental changes.
One way to learn faster and understand what we’re learning is by teaching others what we want to know. This is also called the protégé method of learning.
What is the protégé effect?
A protégé is someone who is supported by a more experienced person. They get guided towards the right direction and their mentors help them build their skills based on the mentors’ own knowledge and experiences.
The protege effect is where someone who explains a subject to another person has better recall and understanding of that subject. This is a common-sense approach to learning that is also backed by scientific studies.
Let’s look at why you learn more when you teach others. And in the process, you’ll also get ideas for ways to practically apply this approach to improve your ability to pick up new things.
How teaching others improves your learning
Here’s what happens when you pick up a subject and start learning it with the intention of teaching other people about that topic.
You approach the subject with a different mindset
Think about a subject you’d like to learn, like coding, mathematics, or a language. Or maybe you just want to understand a difficult concept in your area of interest.
When you attempt to teach someone the content, your interest in the subject itself is heightened.
You end up viewing the work from a different mindset and even if the subject was originally difficult or boring for you, you’d feel differently about it when you know you have to help someone else.
Your mind becomes more ‘activated’ when you realize that your actions and words will impact someone else. And this helps you rein your interest and feel more energized about the subject.
You break things down into simpler concepts
When you teach someone else a topic, you’re compelled to view the subject in the most basic form possible.
You’ll build up your foundational knowledge and break down the information you’re learning into smaller parts.
This is because you want to make the information as easy as possible for the other person to understand. And in the process, you make the subject matter easier for yourself.
You engage more of your mind
When you learn for yourself, you typically listen to another person passively by sitting in a single place and taking notes.
But when you teach others, you’re speaking, thinking, and engaging your body to express what you know.
You engage more modalities and learn more automatically.
So, the next time you are starting a new topic, pretend that you’re teaching it to someone. If you can stand in front of a blackboard or a flipchart and act as if you’re in front of a classroom, you can enter into the experience of teaching others more fully.
You could also choose to actually teach a friend, student, or colleague in real life about a topic once you’ve covered it.
It is very likely that you’ll find yourself making doodles and drawing connections between written concepts and images.
Such engagement of your motor skills and mind means that you’ll recall your material better.
Leverage questions to learn more
The benefit of teaching others is that they’ll pose questions that challenge you and compel you to explore a concept in greater depth.
Their questions and doubts will also give you new perspectives from which to look at the information. There may be assumptions you’re making or a gap in your knowledge. And by teaching others, their struggles force you to explore your subject in more detail. And in this way, you gain mastery over a topic.
Teach to learn
The approach where you teach others to learn more can be applied to any subject. Whether you want to learn to code, understand philosophy, or master digital marketing.
You engage so much more of your senses and the interactivity with others makes the learning process experiential rather than passive and mental.
We’ve covered how teaching others helps. Reach out to mentor someone or just pretend that you’re in front of classroom explaining your subject to students.
You’ll feel more engaged with your subject and will master it sooner than you think.