Watch one. Do one. Teach one. This is the classic philosophy for teaching aspiring young doctors. In medical school and residency, I had my fair share of experiences predicated on this teaching method. Though sometimes scary, it worked. Knowing I had to teach something down the line made me pay more attention to what I was watching and doing.

While the watch one, do one, teach one method has been criticized for putting too much pressure on young doctors and placing patients at risk, the research underscores the value of an approach that emphasizes teaching.

Participants in one study were divided into two groups. One group was told to read a passage of text in preparation for a test while the other was told to read the same passage so that they could teach it to a student who would be tested on it. Both groups had 10 minutes to study and were not allowed to take notes. Those who were expecting to teach the material remembered it more efficiently and performed better when asked specific questions about the text. They also had better retention of important information.

Students engage differently when they think they have to teach it rather than simply memorize it. As the lead scientist describes:

“The immediate implication is that 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.”

A “teaching mindset” requires active engagement and enables learners to filter out unnecessary information, pay attention to important details, and better organize material. Imagine the implications this could have if applied outside of medical school… in elementary, middle and high school. Perhaps even in the professional world.

As Benjamin Franklin said:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

Engagement matters. Next time you want to learn something new, channel your inner teacher.