A mellow place to be

Stumble Index

'Just Stumbling on knowledge'

Don't forget to have your say

Learning by teaching

Student teaching vocabulary


Student teaching vocabulary

In professional education learning by teaching (in German "Lernen durch Lehren", therefore LdL) designates a method which allows pupils and students to prepare and teach lessons or parts of lessons. Learning by teaching should not be confused with presentations or lectures by students, as students do not only convey a certain content, but choose their own methodological and didactical approach in teaching their classmates a certain area of the respective subject.


The principle of LdL is not new, it has already been part of the so-called Lancaster-Schools. The first book about the topic was published in 1971 in the US by Gartner and in Germany in 1975 by R. Krüger. the method received broader recognition starting in the early eighties, when Jean-Pol Martin developed the concept systematically for the teaching of French as a foreign language and gave it a theoretical background in numerous publications. At the same time other educational theorists did research in this area1. The method spread from 1987 on, when Martin founded a network of several thousand teachers that employed learning by teaching in many different subjects, documented its successes and approaches and presented their findings in various teacher training sessions.

From 2001 on LdL has gained more and more supporters as a result of educational reform movements started throughout Germany.

The Evolution of the Method from 2001 on

Communication in the classroom can be modelled upon neural networks, which gives rise to several questions:
  • How do neural networks learn?

Learning takes place in the brain. Neurons establish stable long-term connections. For example, the word 'mum' is being represented by a certain constellation of neurons. The more often the word 'mum' is repeated, the more frequently the neurons fire the corresponding impulses and thus strengthen the tie.

  • How do neural networks produce knowledge?

Neural networks produce knowledge by interacting. In the context of these interactions new and more effective connections are formed (emergence).

  • How can the model be transferred to the classroom activities?

The teacher should take care that the learners communicate intensely and enter long-term relationships that are related to the subject matter. He has to watch over the collective production of knowledge by the learners. This is done most easily by small research-projects.

  • Which conditions have to be fulfilled so that a neural network consisting of humans functions?

The people involved must have fun while doing their tasks and feel the collective spirit of the work in the sense of contributing to a better world (ethic motivation). Communication must be fluent: that means, hurdles to communication have to be removed. The easier and quicker the communication, the better. The 'brain-constructor' (teacher) must know the individual neurons well, so that he can actively promote and enhance their relations and let them interact productively resource-orientation. The more competent the individual neurons are, the more competent the constructor, the better the 'collective brain' functions. Therefore it is important, that the learner be taught the necessary basics of behaviour, such as being friendly, reliable, quick etc.

Learning by teaching consists of two components: a general anthropological one and a subject-related one.

  • The anthropological basis of LdL is related to the pyramid or hierarchy of needs introduced by Abraham Maslow, which consists, from base to peak, of 1) physiological needs, 2) safety/security, 3) social/love/belonging, 4) esteem/self-confidence and 5) being/growth through self-actualization and self-transcendence. Personal growth moves upward through hierarchy, whereas regressive forces tend to push downward. The act of successful learning, preparation and teaching of others contributes to items 3 through 5 above. Facing the problems of our world today and in the future, it is essential to mobilize as many intellectual resources as possible, which happens in LdL lessons in a special way. Democratic skills are promoted through the communication and socialization necessary for this shared discovery and construction of knowledge.
  • The subject related component (in foreign language teaching) of LdL aims to negate the alleged contradiction between the three main components: automatization of speech-related behaviour, teaching of cognitively internalized contents and authentic interaction/communication.

The Approach

After intensive preparation by the teacher, students become responsible for their own learning and teaching. The new material is divided into small units and student groups of not more than three people are formed. Each group familiarizes itself with a strictly defined area of new material and gets the assignment to teach the whole group in this area. One important aspect is that Learning by teaching should not be confused with a student-as-teacher-centred method. The material should be worked on didactically and methodologically (impulses, social forms, summarizing phases etc.). The teaching students have to make sure their audience has understood their message/topic/grammar points and therefore use different means to do so (e.g. short phases of group or partner exercises, comprehension questions, quizzes etc.)

Most teachers using the method do not apply it in all their classes or all the time. They state the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • Student work is more motivated, efficient, active and intensive due to lowered inhibitions and an increased sense of purpose
  • By eliminating the class' division of authoritative teacher and passive audience, an emotive solidarity is obtained.
  • Students may perform many routine tasks, otherwise unnecessarily carried out by the instructor
  • Next to subject-related knowledge students gain important key qualifications like

- teamwork

- planning abilities

- reliability

- presentation and moderation skills

- self-confidence


  • The introduction of the method requires a lot of time.
  • Students and teachers have to work more than usual.
  • There is a danger of simple duplication, repetition or monotony if the teacher does not provide periodic didactic impetus.


Learning by teaching in its different applications

The method learning by teaching is applied in all types of schools and in all subjects. Most curricula recommend it as an open and pupil-centred option. As a method for further professional training it is for example used with the German "Bundesgrenzschutz" (the Federal Border Guard) or in the professional education of librarians. Furthermore there are experiences with special groups of students (highly gifted ones) and in different cultures. Learning by teaching has been researched on a scientific level by a group of researchers concerned with the workings of the brain since 2001.

The method in different educational institutions

In Germany learning by teaching is used in different institutions with different target groups:

  • University: Students experience the opportunity for the emergence of complex thinking toward group discovery and generation of knowledge. Research and teaching can be combined harmonically and thus constitute the ideal of university teaching. As required by today's working conditions, the initial limitation of detailed and exhaustive material to a core knowledge has proved to be successful. Later, students research subtopics according to team interests. As a rule LdL can be used in each course and with every student group (a group of 15 to 35 participants has proven best).2 Cf. also the article Learning By Teaching: The Didactic Model LdL in University Classes
  • Grammar Schools: Learning by teaching was developed at grammar schools, therefore most practical experience with this method was gained in this type of school (the German Gymnasium is a secondary school, comprises classes 5-12 or 13 and leads to an exam which enables students to go on to university). This demand is due to the fact that the focus in the education and training of these teachers was on theoretical knowledge of their respective subject matter as opposed to teaching skills and methods. So they have a high need for didactic concepts. Furthermore, LdL is seen as a more cognitive approach in contrast to others like, for example, learning circles or freely chosen work.
  • German Realschule: (a secondary school from class 5-10 which leads to an exam that enables students to go on to professional training on a higher level). Education at this kind of school aims not only at theoretical and scientific knowledge, but wants to prepare students in a practical way for the working world. Using the method learning by teaching they acquire necessary key qualifications like independence, perseverance, flexibility, care, diligence and the skill to present themselves and their material. An advantage for teachers lies in the fact that the use of LdL can create and promote diversity and creativity in the classroom.
  • German Hauptschule (a secondary school attended from age 10 to 16 which leads to a compulsory exam that enables students to go on doing an apprenticeship). The practical orientation of these schools and their students offers great opportunities for utilization of LdL throughout a complete "Hauptschul"-curriculum. The advantages of a student-activating approach are obvious as many of these students have faced educational failures and may therefore be reluctant to work in more traditionally structured classrooms. They can regain self confidence, pleasure in learning and obtain immediate feedback through independent presentations to peers.

Learning by teaching from the perspective of several sciences

Brain research: Learning is an organic process of the brain: The coordinated interaction of molecular, cellular and systemic neural processes in cooperating subsystems of motoric, sensoric and association. Limited to a special time, individual dispositions for selective capabilities unfold, which involve motoric thinking relevant to the prefrontal cortex in categories of space and time, the lateralified acquisition of language and art skills and limbically induced behaviour which is dependent on motivation and emotions. It is shown that
1) learning happens in small and big systems, which selectively stabilize by a connection of structure and function;
2) Learning follows the rules of activity-dependent reorganization and is always exclusively carried by individual motivational and emotional dynamic and neither IQ nor EQ alone, but both together are the requirement for successful learning;
3) sensomotoric and associative circles are involved completely and in a self-amplifying way into the learning process by the individual, which necessarily means „learning by teaching“.3

The further development

The central dimension, which should be moved forward by the usage of this method, is the capability to communicate, to generate knowledge together: cf. communication (lessons). Here, the group is considered a neural network which in analogy to the brain produces knowledge as emergence (also cf.: collective intelligence). Thus also the resource orientation deals with this topic.

A change in paradigm - the society of knowledge

There is a remarkable parallel between the construction of knowledge during learning by teaching and the construction of an internet-encyclopaedia. Schoolmates are stimulated into focused examination and contribution to the incomplete knowledge discovered and presented by their non-expert peers. In analogous fashion, internet-encyclopedia users may contribute critically, since they consider themselves as representative readers requiring further clarification, correction, or a more current representation of the knowledge base. The democratization of users makes it possible to continue the exponential growth of public domain knowledge in the encyclopaedia. This new form of recording, discovery and construction of mankind's knowledge reflects the change from a society of experts who expand upon knowledge and pass it to dependent consumers or students, to a society of knowledge workers, where all of those wishing to participate are involved in collective construction and/or consumption, within their chosen fields of interest, within the ever-emerging knowledge base of the public domain. This follows the historical advances and gradual democratization trend of the production and consumption of knowledge, from the development of language, writing, the printing press, educational, scientific and other specialty group publications and communications, popular lay publications, telegraph, telephone, moving pictures, television, internet, etc.

New skills are expected of teachers

1. Because the class is structured like a neural network (sitting in a halfcircle or circle is a precondition) and the communication between pupils gets more and more intensive, the teacher has to get used to recognize the main facts of each contribution and to put them in relation to others. He becomes the organizer of collective reflection and has to steer the flow of thoughts carefully to the course‘s objective without intervening too much. Thus he has to focus on contents, but he has to intervene in the first place on the level of process, so that the communication between pupils (metaphorically: neurons) works fast and directly.

2. As the organizer of collective reflection the teacher has to be sure that it leads to a goal, which is the absorption of new material by the whole class. Hence at he beginning of the lesson there might be an indefiniteness of contents (no linearity) and in the classroom clarity (linearity a posterion) should be created step by step by working together. A good preparation for the profession of a teacher would therefore be an activity like serving as host of a discussion board, which is about constructing knowledge step by step out of chaotically incoming information. The final point in a transformation of the class to a neural network should be a complex structure, which would be more capable of self-organization. According to this concept, successful communication will be the main attribute of problem solvers in the future – many researchers consider this the requirement to a 6th Kondratjeff - Jean-Pol Martin continues developing his concept.


1 e.g. Renkel, 1997; and a publication in the magazine Pädagogik, 11/97
2 An empirical report with theoretical background, practical advice and bibliographical reference (in German) can be found at LdL: Vorbereitung auf die Wissensgesellschaft an der Uni
3 The text was taken with permission from the homepage of Prof. Dr. Gertrud Teuchert-Noodt (2003) [1], from this site: Learning by doing: Physiological foundations of learning [2]


References and Notes

Wiki Source

Email this Page to Everyone


Page and Website format - Copyright y2u.co.uk

Text and images from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. under the GNU Free Documentation License  - Disclaimers & Creative Commons media & Other Sources - Please verify information from other sources as no liability is accepted on contents..- Published by Y2U.co.uk. The design and concept of this website is copyrighted.

back to top


Goodies from Amazon.co.uk


The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest


I Dreamed a Dream Susan Boyle - CD


Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009 DVD


Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 - Xbox 360

Computer Video Games