Friday, November 20, 2015

He who does the talking, does the learning

All of us learn in different and multiple ways. As a teacher, it is important for me to remember to strike a balance in the way that I teach, so that my students have the opportunity to learn in different and multiple ways.

The Learning Pyramid below suggests that relatively little learning is done when students are just listening, but that students learn and retain more when they have the chance to teach others about the concept they themselves are learning about.
Ironically, this specific graphic comes from a Washington Post article that critiques The Learning Pyramid.

Although there might be problems with the pyramid above, many will agree with the underlying concept: the more students are engaged, active and put in charge, the more learning that takes place.

Recently, one of my colleagues shared a gem of a quote from Jen York-Barr: "The person doing the talking is often the person doing the learning." This saying falls in line with the idea that when students are active participants in the learning process, the more they will learn.

Trying to capitalize on this idea, in my morning Minecraft class, I learned that a student wasn't able to easily and quickly multiply 9's because he hadn't mastered "The 9 Trick".

*Please note: I understand that math tricks, shortcuts and 'helpful' phrases are sometimes damaging to students' understanding of mathematical concepts. But, sometimes they can offer students a bridge as they construct their understanding of these complex and abstract concepts.

After giving him a mini-lecture on how to use the trick and giving him multiple opportunities to practice doing the trick with different kinds of equations, I asked him to prepare a short demonstration that would help teach others about the useful trick with multiplying by 9.

Below, is a recording of his demonstration.

At a talk I attended in August, Alan November (@globalearner & @NLearning) advocated for more of this kind of "students-teaching-students" approach. As an example, he shared with us the website, which is a free, educational "kids teaching kids" project from Mr. Marcos & his Students at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica, CA. The idea isn't solely to show our students these videos (some are very helpful), but to also have our students create teaching videos for an authentic, international audience.

Often times, teachers ask students to turn and talk with their partners to share their thinking and teach others right beside them. With devices that record video and audio that can then be instantly uploaded to the web, how could we put our students in charge of the teaching so that they feel empowered to teach others around the globe?


  1. Yes! Jen York-Barr is so good at capturing and presenting the essence of complex ideas. Your post is so relevant to all learners - children and adults alike.

  2. Love this article! It's so timely with an app we are developing to help teachers know how much they vs. their students are talking. It's called "Earshot" and we're looking for pilot testers now: Thank you for this, Ryan!

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