The Power of Teaching: Embedding Learning for Lasting Results

True learning requires repetition and reinforcement. We’ve all experienced situations where we read or hear something once, only to forget it shortly afterward (it’s a daily occurrence over here). I’m often speaking to clients about how they can help embed learning for themselves and in their teams.

I’m more sure than ever that the answer lies in teaching others.

William Glasser, a renowned psychiatrist, developed a theory about how we learn. According to his research, we retain:

  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear
  • 70% of what is discussed with others
  • 80% of what is experienced personally
  • 95% of what we teach to someone else

These percentages highlight the tremendous impact teaching others has on our ability to grasp and retain information. When we teach something to someone else, we internalise the knowledge at a deeper level and solidify our understanding. Teaching other requires us to think critically about the subject matter, articulate our thoughts clearly, and adapt our explanations to different perspectives. In essence, teaching engages our cognitive processes in a way that mere reading or hearing cannot match.

It’s worth considering how teaching others can be used as a tool for reinforcing learning in a practical setting.

An example in which teaching can help you teams:

Imagine a scenario where a key member of your team is struggling to follow processes (the very processes they are in fact responsible for), and in doing so they are causing inefficiencies and confusion for the wider team. Then imagine that instead of insisting that person reads the manuals on process again, you instead leverage the power of teaching?

In this case, suggesting that the struggling team member trains everyone else in the proper processes can have transformative results. By taking on the role of a teacher, they not only solidify their own understanding of the processes but also become accountable for their implementation. This approach encourages them to delve deeper into the subject matter, identify potential areas for improvement, and actively engage with their peers.

The act of teaching elevates their level of responsibility and helps them develop the confidence and skills necessary to excel in their role. It also gives leaders the opportunity to identify areas which may require further development.

Proactive reading – a way to retain information

Being a proactive reader is another crucial aspect of embedding learning. Simply flicking absently through a book or article is not enough if you want to retain the information. It’s essential to be fully present and actively engage with the material. Rather than passively absorbing information, proactive reading involves interacting with the text. Asking yourself questions, practicing recall, and seeking connections between new knowledge and existing understanding are all strategies that enhance comprehension and retention.

Self-explanation is a powerful technique that complements teaching and proactive reading. By explaining newly acquired knowledge to yourself or others, you reinforce your understanding and create a deeper connection with the subject matter. When attempting to explain a concept to someone who lacks knowledge in that area, you must find ways to simplify and articulate complex ideas. This exercise forces you to clarify your own understanding and helps you discover any gaps in your knowledge.

As you engage in self-explanation or teaching others, asking yourself thought-provoking questions can guide the process. Consider the main idea, the relevance of the knowledge, and its practical applications. By breaking down complex topics into simple terms, you can truly grasp the underlying principles and develop a comprehensive understanding.

Do you read proactively? Do you take notes when you’re reading? Do you make a habit of teaching someone else what you’ve learnt?

I’d love to know.



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