I came across some research published in the journal Memory and Cognition a few years ago that was based on a series of reading-and-recall experiments in which one group of students is told they will be tested on a selection of written material, and another group is led to believe they are preparing to teach the passage to another student. In reality, all participants were tested, and no one actually engaged in teaching. Findings suggest that simply telling learners that they would later teach another student changes their mindset enough so that they engage in more effective approaches to learning than did their peers who simply expected a test.
I used this research to start an afterschool club at Dawes called the Teach2 Learn Club. Club members are fifth grade students who love science and/or have an interest in becoming teachers someday. They work in collaborative teaching teams of six. After school they learn how to enact hands-on science lessons so they can go to their peers’ classrooms and share quality hands-on science lessons. Their goal, like mine, is to make the learning to their peer’s dinner table. Last year they visited Kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms. They taught lessons which modeled conditions of atmospheric pressure, facilitated the learning of students experimenting with isopods, and even helped students at Hutchens find out a way to scientifically and mathematically prove which cookie Santa would be happy to find left out Christmas Eve at their homes. As a result The Dawes’ faculty has witnessed the positive impact of students teaching their peers and being empowered to become leaders of learning. This flipped classroom has allowed students to change their mind set as a learner to see that knowledge opens doors. Students who are receiving the hands-on instruction from their peers are engaged at a deeper personal level and are not afraid to take risks and make mistakes. Many students who have had this experience can hardly wait to become a fifth grader so that they too can be leaders of learning and join the Teach 2 Learn Club.
Creating an environment where students are teachers and ALL students are a learner has been a win-win for our students and teachers alike. One third grade teacher, said, “Now that I have seen and heard the learning that takes place as a result of a hands-on science lesson, I must change the way I have been doing things. Witnessing the student teachers has empowered me to believe that I could do what they did so that I too may get a deeper level of learning for my students on a daily basis. Wow, when I grow up, I want to be as effective as these student teachers are!”
I can think of no greater legacy to leave than to have inspired a future generation of children that will one day inspire theirs.