« All Episodes

Benefits of Knowledge: Teaching to Learn

Published 6/19/2015

Today, I talk about teaching in order to learn. This isn't reserved to just those in or going through school, but anyone who has learned a skill.

There aren't many excuses for you not teaching what you know. This is especially important for developers, where languages, functions, and working knowledge changes on a dime.

During this episode I'll talk about when to start teaching, how to start teaching, and three benefits of teaching.

If you have any questions, feedback or topics you'd like me to discuss, you can reach me via email at: developertea@gmail.com or on twitter @DeveloperTea.

Thank you so much for listening,

Enjoy your tea.

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
Hey everyone and welcome to Developer Tea. My name is Jonathan Cutrell and today I'm going to be talking about the benefits of sharing your knowledge, how to teach to learn. Teaching is something that we traditionally allow teachers to do. We give somebody the job label of teacher at a university or perhaps at a developer boot camp and those are the people who teach the instructors. We might assume that the people who write tutorials are also teachers. But if you are a developer who is in the workforce, you may not see yourself as a teacher and that's not because the world needs more or better teachers necessarily, but because you are missing out on a lot of learning if you are not also teaching. Teaching is one of the best ways to solidify the skills and the knowledge that you've already gained being taught by someone else. We talk a lot about learning on this podcast, but I want to go ahead and debunk the myth that teaching is only reserved for people who are the masters. In fact, teaching is just another part of learning. It just has different label. Those of you who are listening to this episode who are currently at a university, you know that a lot of your teachers are still constantly studying. They are studying the things that they are teaching and that's the incredible part about being a teacher is that you yourself are learning while you are teaching and not only being reserved for people at universities who are, you know, who hold a PhD necessarily, but also being reserved for those of us who have just learned something, those of us who are just beyond a particular stage of learning, that is a perfect time to teach. And before I get into my three points, I want to say that those people who have just passed beyond the beginner stage are going to be much better at teaching beginners the things they need to know than somebody who is well beyond that beginner stage because they have in their most recent memory some of those very same problems that they are seeing the new beginners starting to experience. And beyond that software development changes so rapidly that the knowledge relevant to a beginner today may change significantly for the beginner of one or two or three years from now. So if you think that you are not experienced enough to teach, well, if you know anything, then you are experienced enough to teach that thing. In other words, there aren't many excuses for you not to be teaching what you know. So now I'm going to give you the three benefits that I talked about earlier. The first one is that articulating something well enough to communicate it to a beginner or to someone who does not know it, that forces you to understand what you are teaching in its full context. And this is one way in which you learn. When you start to understand something not just because of its factual nature, but rather in its context enough to actually explain it to someone else so that they also understand the context, that is a new form of understanding that has come from you verbalizing articulating, putting it into words that someone can now understand in context in a functional way rather than just understanding the facts. For example, some of the working knowledge that you use that you just take for granted, if you had to teach it, you would probably need to understand the why, not just the what. And that's really the first benefit that you have to understand the why in order to teach something in order to articulate it well enough to communicate it. The second benefit is that teaching requires you to recall the information you have learned in its full form, and the act of recalling has been shown in many studies to be one of the most effective learning strategies. So there may be some things that you learned a long time ago in your development career that you have not thought about in a long time, and you have to think about those things in order to teach them. Some fundamental ideas, for example, about web development, may have left your mind or may not commonly be coming up in conversations, but if you had to teach them, you would be recalling that information and thus making your understanding of that information stronger. Once again, there's quite a few studies that say, basically, that recalling information, remembering information on demand, that is one of the most effective learning strategies to hold on to that information for a long period of time. So in this way, you can think of your student as the person who is kind of quizzing you, just like you would provide your teacher with the right answer to a question, you are also providing a student with the right answer to a question. So this process of recalling information in order to teach it is very similar to the process that a student goes through when they're given a quiz, for example. So this third benefit is that you are constantly recalling the information that you are teaching, so naturally you're going to learn it better and better every time you recall it. The third benefit is that teaching someone else helps reveal any inconsistencies or incomplete aspects of your knowledge. Now this could be a little bit uncomfortable because it puts you in somewhat of a vulnerable state when you allow your students, whoever you are teaching, to point out inconsistencies in whatever it is that you are teaching. You might not see all of the inconsistencies in your knowledge that someone else may be able to detect, but it's necessary to understand where we are lacking in order to firm up our knowledge and in order to really, truly understand something in its full context. So number three, in some ways, echoes number one in that articulating something well enough to communicate it forces you to understand what you are teaching in its full context. But number three says, if you don't actually fully contextualize for your students, your students will easily be able to point out inconsistencies or incomplete aspects of your knowledge. And again, knowing that you do not know is an essential part to learning. If you are blind to your own ignorance, if you are never given a pointer towards the things that you don't understand completely, then how would you ever know that you needed to learn them? How would you ever know what to focus on learning if you don't know what you are missing? So the process of teaching teaches you in so many ways. You are also a student if you are a teacher. I hope this episode has inspired you to become a teacher in some capacity, even if you feel like you are just barely beyond beginner status. I hope that you will consider teaching someone the things that you know. Thank you so much for listening to Developer Tea. If you have any questions I'd love to hear from you. You can reach out on Twitter at at Developer Tea. You can email me at developertea@gmail.com. I'd love to hear from you. The show notes for this episode and all other episodes can be found at DeveloperTea.com. If you don't want to miss out on future episodes of Developer Tea, you can always subscribe in whatever podcasting app that you use and you can find the rssfeed at DeveloperTea.com. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.