As a teenager, I remember my favorite way to study for an exam was to teach the material to someone else. At the time, though, I didn’t fully understand or appreciate the effectiveness of this study technique; I just knew that it seemed to work well. A few years later in college, I learned about the concept of “learning by teaching” — a teaching method centered around the philosophy that optimal learning occurs when students take a more active role in the learning process by first mastering a concept and then internalizing, personalizing, and re-presenting that newly-acquired knowledge to someone else. Many studies have bolstered the merit of this educational approach, consistently demonstrating that one of the best strategies for learning something new, and retaining that knowledge in the future, is in fact by teaching it to someone else.
This trimester in Yoga and Mindfulness, we have been exploring this concept by allowing students to step into the role of teacher. Instead of simply practicing a teacher-led yoga sequence, students worked in small groups to design their own yoga flows, tying together their choice of traditional yoga poses with inventive transitions and personal flair to create a totally unique sequence. Once each group had created a yoga flow, they had the opportunity plan, practice, and then lead their fellow classmates through the sequence. It was a pleasure to watch the students’ confidence and ownership of the material grow each week, culminating in a student-led class bursting with joy, laughter, and learning.