How Teaching Can Make You Smarter

tutor and student

It seems like basic logic. If you take the time to help someone else learn a topic, you will also become more proficient in it. In fact, it even has a name, the Protégé Effect, and has been proven. A study in 2007 showed that first-born children may be smarter than their siblings as a result of the first-born child teaching their younger brother or sister how to do things.

This same logic applies to teachers and tutors. For example, a student who is doing well in a class and tutors other students will continue to learn the topic in more detail as they explain it, answer questions, and work through problems with their pupil. Every student in every school could use this method to improve learning, but it is rare that you see people working in this way, especially in an online university. However, the limits aren’t as big as you think. Here are some tips to use the Protégé Effect for your own education:

  1. Find a student
    There are always people out there that work better with a partner. It’s your job to find them. Maybe they are classmates, co-workers, or family members (kids love to ask “why”). It really doesn’t matter who, so long as you enjoy working with them and they want to learn with you.
  2. Match your talents
    Are you more intuitive or logical in how you think? Do you like images or words to explain an idea? If you match up with someone who thinks the same way, it could help you each dive deeper into the topic and become more of an expert on the details.
  3. Be a teacher and a student
    You don’t know everything, so enjoy your chances to play the student as well. It may be on the topic you’re currently teaching someone else or it may be a topic that your student excels in, but you are less familiar with. Play both roles to really advance the learning of all participating parties.
  4. Don’t let distance be a barrier
    Many students can’t find someone nearby, but that’s no reason to stop. What about phone calls, video chats, or even filming yourself giving a lesson and then answer comments about it. All of these are ways to teach and become smarter about the topic at hand.

The Protégé Effect isn’t a new idea, but it’s often underused. Take the time to find a student you can teach and you may be on a great path. And, if worse comes to worst, there is even a virtual model to help. It’s not fully developed yet, but maybe that’s a good thing.


Written by: Travis Taggart
Travis is a regular contributor to the Ashford University blog.

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