Better Learning by Creating and Teaching

Continuing on from my last Monday post, today I thought I’d talk about different ways of achieving better learning. You might recall that in last week’s post we discussed the differences between just in case learning and just in time learning and the pros and cons of each. The techniques we’re going to look at today can be applied to either method and will further enhance your ability to learn now topics quickly and efficiently.

Better Learning

One problem I’ve come across when using the just in case learning method is that I won’t fully understand the practical application of the knowledge with just rote learning. I might understand the concepts but might struggle to apply the knowledge to real life situations. Learning from a textbook or online course cannot truly provide the context needed to be able to apply the knowledge. So what are we to do?

Create Something!

One suggestion I’d make is to create something with your newly acquired knowledge. This provides a number of benefits including:

  • You’ll be creating something of value which will provide it’s own benefits
  • You’ll be reinforcing the knowledge by working through it in a real world scenario
  • By picking something to create you’ll be forced to consider situations where the newly acquired knowledge applies

For those of us who enjoy learning for it’s own sake, we can easily fall into the trap of never doing anything with the information we learn. By creating something after each new topic learnt you will be constantly producing new things of value. This will also help to target your learning to topics which will be applicable to whatever it is you want to do.

If you really want to embed the information in your mind then you should…

Teach Someone!

The thought behind this article follows the well known thought

You remember some of what you hear or read, more of what you see, most of what you do and all of what you teach

This follows the progression we have been talking about

  1. Learn a new topic by reading or watching a lecture or demonstration
  2. Do something with the new knowledge
  3. Teach someone about the topic

And the thing is that this doesn’t even have to be formal teaching! It could be as simple as explaining the topic to a friend, your spouse, your parents or even a rubber duck! Yes this is a real thing! Wikipedia has an article describing it as rubber duck debugging.


By Tom Morris – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Rubber duck debugging is the technique of trying to explain your topic to a rubber duck. The process of thinking about the topic and trying to distill the information helps you to understand it better. If you are struggling to explain the topic in simple terms then it might suggest that you need to go back and study some more.


So that’s a few additional ways you can enhance your learning experience and ensure that the information is useful and sticks in your mind.

Have you ever used any of these methods to improve the way you learn? What about any other techniques you have? Feel free to let me know in the comments your thoughts.

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