Study: To Ask Better Questions, Teach: Learning-by-Teaching

By Sarah Shi Hui Wong, Kagen Y. L. Lim, and Stephen Wee Hun Lim Department of Psychology, National University of Singapore

Asking good questions is vital for scientific learning and discovery, but improving this complex skill is
a formidable challenge. Here, we show in two experiments (N = 152) that teaching others—learning-
by-teaching—enhances one’s ability to generate higher-order research questions that create new
knowledge, relative to two other well-established generative learning techniques: retrieval practice
and concept-mapping. Learners who taught scientific expository texts across natural and social sci-
ences topics by delivering video-recorded lectures outperformed their peers who practiced retrieval
or constructed concept maps when tested on their ability to generate create-level research questions
based on the texts (Experiment 1). This advantage held reliably even on a delayed test 48 hr later,
and when all learners similarly received and responded to poststudy questions on the material
(Experiment 2). Moreover, across both immediate and delayed tests, learning-by-teaching produced
a recall benefit that rivaled that of the potent technique of retrieval practice. In contrast, despite recall-
ing more than twice the study content that the concept-mapping group did, learners who practiced
retrieval were unable to generate more create-level research questions based on that content. Three sup-
plemental experiments (N = 168) further showed that retrieval practice consistently did not improve
higher-order question generation over restudying, despite yielding superior long-term retention.
Altogether, these findings reveal that simply possessing a wealth of factual knowledge is insufficient
for generating higher-order research questions that create new knowledge. Rather, teaching others is a
powerful strategy for producing deep and durable learning that enables research question generation.
To ask better questions, teach.

Read the full study here.


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