Simply telling learners that they would later teach another student changes their mindset enough so that they engage in more effective approaches to learning, the findings showed.

‘The mindset of the student before and during learning can have a significant impact on learning, and that positively altering a student's mindset can be effectively achieved through rather simple instructions,’ said John Nestojko, a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Washington University in St. Louis.

‘When compared to learners expecting a test, learners expecting to teach recalled more material correctly, they organized their recall more effectively and they had better memory for especially important information,’ Nestojko added.

The study was based on a series of reading-and-recall experiments in which one group of students was told they would be tested on a selection of written material, and another group was led to believe they were preparing to teach the passage to another student.

In reality, all participants were tested, and no one actually engaged in teaching. Study participants who expected to teach produced more complete and better-organized free recall of the passage and, in general, correctly answered more questions about the passage than other participants who were expecting a test.

The study suggests that instilling an expectation to teach may be a simple, inexpensive intervention with the potential to increase learning efficiency at home and in the classroom. The study appeared in the journal Memory and Cognition.


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