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When the Student Becomes the Teacher

Updated on August 1, 2012

Flipping the Table for a Better Learning Experience

One of my favorite tutoring extensions to a lesson is having a student teach a concept to their parents or siblings as a homework assignment. While this doesn't work in every situation, having a student teach material to another student solidifies their understanding of the material. When you teach a concept to another person, you not only have to understand the concept but while you are teaching it you have to make connections to other areas to help your "student" learn the material.

I have found this to be true even in practice as a tutor. Many times I have had "Aha!" moments when I was explaining one concept and it connected to a previous concept. For example, as silly as it may sound, I never really thought about the terms "squared and square root" in math. I understood what was going on and knew when to use them and how to use them but I never put any time into thinking about the terms themselves.

So there I was, working with a student to figure out the area of a square and then how to find the side length of a square from the area. As I was explaining to my student that you square the side length to find the area of a square it just clicked. In that moment it made perfect sense why they chose the terms "squared" and "square root."

While a student may not always have a someone at home that it would be appropriate to teach the material to, tutors and teachers both can build "student teaching" time into their sessions or classes. Many teachers build peer groups in for students to learn from each other already. In the case of tutors, sometimes it is best to be the "student" to see if your tutee understands the material as well as you think they do.


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