Learning by teaching is a learning context wherein a student is given the role of teacher and is asked to teach academic content to others.
The act of preparing to teach is the critical mechanism responsible for learning gains.
Three studies were conducted with elementary students from grades 5 and 6. For the first two studies, students were given a complex mathematics problem and then were randomly assigned to a learning by teaching condition or a learning condition. Prior to solving the problem, students created a concept map of their understanding of the problem using the iPad app Popplet. Students then solved the problem using Noteshelf, and for those in the learning by teaching condition, they created a teaching video using DoodleCast or Explain Everything! Results revealed that students in the learning by teaching intervention condition developed a more detailed and better-organized concept map of the problem compared to students in the learning condition. Students in the intervention also engaged in more metacognitive and planning strategies and had higher levels of mathematics problem solving achievement compared to students in the learning condition.
Based on results from the first two studies, we developed a teachable agent learning environment. Students taught a “teachable” agent what they know using the concept map they developed and, based on the quality of the concept map, the “agent” succeeds (or not) at solving the problem. Results revealed that students in the teachable agent condition developed better concept maps and had higher problem-solving achievement compared to students in the control condition.
Implications of this research suggest that in the context of complex mathematics problem solving, the act of preparing to teach is the critical mechanism responsible for learning gains compared to learning for oneself. Moreover, teaching the content provides additional benefits for problem solving performance. From an instructional perspective, teachers can readily integrate this approach into their daily classrooms.
Krista Muis, McGill University
Deposit of the research report: March 2017