The teacher has found a participatory method of learning—learning by teaching—where students study a topic and present it to their peers to be an effective method in engaging bright students and observed that it increases classroom interaction between the students and their peers. Through this method, the students are able to learn to structure their thoughts, develop their communication skills, and overcome stage fright.
A teacher plays an important role in the teaching process. It is the job of the teacher to select a lesson and plan it effectively in a manner that the students are able to discover, learn, and remember the concepts. After examining the learning pyramid, I have come to realize that participatory teaching methods guarantee better retention of matters in students. I have observed that the leadership skills, interest to imitate teachers, and love for teaching—writing on the board, displaying charts, asking questions to fellow students, etc.—of students are enhanced through the use of participatory method of teaching. Therefore, I opted to try a lesson using the learning by teaching method, something along the lines of the seminar classes conducted in colleges.
As per the learning pyramid (National Training Laboratories, Bethel, Maine), the key to subject mastery is teaching it to others. If one is able to explain a concept in its simplest form, it shows one’s mastery of that concept. According to the Learning Pyramid Model, students are able to retain about 90% of what they are able to teach others. Peer teaching is the most common form of teaching others. While a better method would be to organize a peer study group, I opted for the whole-classroom teaching method.
I selected students of class 9 for this experimentation, since I believe students of grades 7 and 8 would be too young for this. I selected the chapter on Pollution and Ozone Depletion (Third Term Science) and divided the same into 12 parts. Each part was given to 12 students who were selected based on their interest, academic performance, classroom behavior, and other such factors. A week’s time was given for the preparation, which included preparing notes, charts, pictures, and other tools that would facilitate wholesome learning.
The students quite eagerly collected materials for their presentation. The ICT lab was their primary resource center. Under the guidance of ICT lab instructor, they googled the keywords, used translation tools for translating content in English to Tamil, and searched for related videos on YouTube. They also approached other science teachers to get some further guidance on their assigned topics. The students sat in groups and prepared necessary charts, made posters with pictures and newspaper cuttings. It was evident from their enthusiasm that the students had taken it up as a challenge to prove themselves.
On the day of the presentation, the students made presentations on their respective topics using the aids that they had prepared. Most of them were able to present their topics very well. One student explained about global warming through four main points; another student explained about noise pollution and its impact on living beings. The latter used charts to explain concepts like the frequency of sound. One other student talked about acid rain as well. All of them were keen to ask questions to their friends. They utilized the blackboard and presented their topics through the effective use of teaching aids. The students asked questions to the peer-teacher at the end of each topic. Each presenter/peer-teacher was given instant feedback and were marked for their presentation by the class.
A few of the presentations were not up to the expected level. While some students did not prepare well, others faced problems in presenting their topics well enough. The classroom tended to be a little noisy during the presentations. The class engaged in trivializing the efforts of the peer-teachers, making jokes during presentations, not listening to their friends, and not taking it seriously. However, I can say that, overall, it was a successful attempt. Most of the presenters shared that they were initially scared, but they enjoyed the experience and became motivated to make presentations after watching their friends do the same.
This activity enhances the understanding level for the peer-teacher. As the old saying goes, “to teach is to learn twice”. While teaching, it is not sufficient to simply remember the facts. It also becomes important to learn how to convey an idea to others.
As a subset of teaching, the students develop other skills like preparing notes, creating teaching aids, time management, presentation skills, etc.
The traditional teacher–student barrier is broken, and the students can clarify their doubts without hesitation. The presenters also receive instant feedback from their peers, which help them to reflect and grow.
The students need to do intense research in order to become experts in a particular topic. Often their preparation is limited to only a few sources. They do not have sufficient time to prepare during school hours. If students of other classes occupy the ICT lab, it further reduces the time available for them to prepare.
Struggling learners and those who do not volunteer to take part in this process will not benefit from this method. Some students hesitate to learn from their friends, which increases the challenge level.
The students tend to take the whole activity lightly and engage in disruptive activities (mocking, passing comments, making noise), which discourages the peer teacher and affects their confidence.
This method may not be suitable for all topics, being mostly suitable for theoretical topics. However, it is an effective method to engage the sharp and smart students. But, it is the responsibility of the teacher to play the role of a facilitator, guiding and supervising the entire process.