The Best Way To Learn is To Teach

“Fake it till you make it”, you might have heard as advice in order to succeed.

In learning, the biggest mistake people make is rote learning. According to Wikipedia,

Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material the more one repeats it.

A person who rote-learns has the information stored in memory but that information is not connected to anything else. In other words, that data is useless. A typical example of rote-learning is the student re-reading textbooks over and over until the information falsely feels familiar. Rote-learning not only is not efficient, but it is also not fun. Memorizing solutions to typical exercises is alike to memorizing a list of grocery items: rigid, colorless, and static.

When you learn, you want to avoid rote learning like the plague. What you want instead is active learning. In active learning, you connect new information to the web of knowledge you already possess. You create the bridges for that new knowledge to stick and to last.

How do you achieve then active learning? Teach it. I agree that it seems paradoxical at first to teach a topic that precisely you want to learn. But momentarily taking the position of a teacher can do wonders. By trying to explain the topic to somebody else, it allows you to see the gaps in your own understanding. The steps are the following:

  1. Explain the topic aloud as if you are a teacher in that subject.
  2. Note the parts that were unclear in your explanation.
  3. Focus on those parts and fill the gaps in your understanding.

Iterate the three steps above until you’re satisfied with your understanding. To practice, if you don’t have somebody else to give you feedback, you can simply record yourself while you’re explaining the topic you’re learning.

The beauty of the act of teaching a subject you’re trying to learn is that it automatically switches you to active learning. You will find yourself using vivid descriptions and relatable experiences to explain your topic, accelerating your learning process and making it fun, as it should be.

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