While we teach, we learn, said the Roman philosopher Seneca. This ancient wisdom is something that we all know; yet do we use it enough? For those of you who utilise peer instruction, you will be familiar with the accelerated learning that occurs in students when they are learning by teaching.

If you are a teacher who facilitates collaborative learning or flipped learning with your students, then the odds are that you may also be using the Protégé Effect without even realising it. We now have hundreds of applications at our fingertips that are perfect teaching tools for our students to capture their self-created teaching content. Students can pause and rewind their friends, should they need something to be repeated. The students in my classroom love to use a whole host of apps including; Vidra, Explain Everything, Show Me and the old classic iMovie to create videos for their peers to learn from.

‘The Protégé Effect’ phrase was coined by a group of scientists who found that, students who are enlisted to tutor others ‘work harder to understand the material, recall it more accurately and apply it more effectively’. Going further back in time, in 1800, Professor Jean-Pol Martin, developed his approach “Lernen durch Lehren”, or “Learning by Teaching”. These methods demonstrated staggering improvements in creativity, independence and self-confidence.

Put simply, explaining something to someone else, reinforces your students understanding of a subject. It tests their ability to explain their opinions on the topic and truly measures their depth of knowledge. In 2009 researchers at the Stanford University, studied a group of grade 5 students. One group was asked to ‘teach’ virtual pupils or teaching assistants, the other to learn independently. The results overwhelmingly showed the ‘teachers’ were ‘much more emotionally connected to the learning process’ and the independent learners did not ‘display the same ownership over their own learning’.

So if the Protégé effect is so effective in increasing students’ attitude to learning and the depth of their learning, then why is it not yet common place in our schools? Is a change of mindset required? Around two years ago, with the enthusiasm and benefits to my students evident, I set out on an ambitious mission to create a platform that the students in my school could use to share and organise their self created learning content in a more efficient way. The results we had were exceptional. Students were so much more engaged with their learning, because they suddenly had an audience to share their content with.

Students are now active participants in the creation of learning materials rather than passive consumers. To reflect this, we recently changed the name of the platform to ‘Sharek’, meaning ‘participation’ in Arabic. Sharek is currently helping 16 schools here in the UAE, with this shift in mindset, and hopes to help many more in the near future. This social element is crucial in creating stimulating educational environments. Learning is a social endeavor, involving student engagement and collaborative understanding of concepts. In my school, we have staggered our curriculum as much as possible, so that units that have links across the school, are spread a few weeks apart, enabling multiple opportunities for peer teaching. The Key Stage Two students have fully embraced the Protégé Effect by creating a collection of E-Books, for the younger students, which we display in the library using the trusty QR code.

In summary, when the learning process is externally directed to support the learning of another, students spend more time examining their understanding and work harder to revise their thinking. Let’s all unleash the power of the Protégé Effect!

By: George Stokes 

George is currently the Digital Learning Leader at SAFA British School. Around two years ago, he built his own learning platform called Sharek, which is now widely used across the UAE. This year, George will be speaking at the JESS Innovation Summit, the GESS conference and the Edutech Middle East Conference.