Teaching is an effective way to measure how much stuff you’ve internalized. And it is a good path to hop on when you want to learn something thoroughly. The technique is to get out of your head, and teach others what you have absorbed. Simply learn, teach, and internalize.
It’s often very demanding to keep absorbing concepts—especially abstract ones—that you’re unfamiliar with. I remember having this problem repeatedly in high school, when I had to study for math tests. I would go over one part, make some sense of it, go on to the next section, and soon notice that I’d forgotten how the previous method worked. I didn’t have this figured out back then, but I now know how teaching can boost our learning speed tremendously.
The magic of teaching
There is definitely some kind of magic in teaching that transfers knowledge from our short-term memory banks to long-term memory. When we tell another person how something works, we are at the same time hardwiring the information into our own memory. And the more we do it, the better it sticks. That’s why (authentic) teachers are masters of their field—they’ve shared their knowledge so many times that it has become part of themselves.
We don’t have to become teachers
No, we don’t have to gain authority in any field to use this technique. For example, if you wanted to learn how to apply the quadratic equation in mathematics, and internalize the ability, you would teach your little brother how to do it. You wouldn’t have to become a math teacher to “gain permission” to teach it. It’s just like teaching someone how to play blackjack. Anyone who knows how to play blackjack can teach it to others, right?
The purpose is to gain a broader perspective on things. It’s always faster to get solutions to a problem when you talk to someone about it. And involving a second person also brings more angles to the table, so it gets easier to analyze the problem more clearly. So when you teach a skill to another person, you figure things out from multiple perspectives, and with multiple mindsets, so you’ll have a richer trove of information that will provide more references in the future.
Next time you have a hard time internalizing knowledge, talk to your girlfriend or grandfather about it, and try to teach it to him/her. When you teach, you also notice what you’re missing, which naturally makes learning much easier for you.