The Protégé Effect: How Teaching Adults Helps Improve Your Academics

Ever wondered why you just couldn’t remember that one thing you needed to ace the test? Next time, try teaching it to a friend, classmate, parent or sibling! In fact, the very best way to understand a concept or subject is to actually to explain it to someone else.

The Protégé Effect

The protégé effect is what happens when you learn while teaching others. It’s especially useful for young people and results in myriad benefits for both tutors and tutees alike!

The Benefits

Here are some examples of the ways teaching others can actually help youth learn a subject while being the instructor:

  • student teachers score higher on tests than pupils who are learning for their own sake,
  • student teachers gain a more positive attitude toward the subject and materials that they teach,
  • explaining things out loud to themselves or others results in long-term retention as compared to those who don’t do this, and
  • low-achieving students who teach others can develop an understanding of complex content on par with high-achieving students who learn for their own sakes.

The mere act of preparing to teach others also has profound effects on young students, as compared to those who aren’t prepared to teach. Benefits include:

  • higher academic performance in the short-term, and
  • better organization of the material when intending to teach it, resulting in stronger understanding and retention.

Why Does the Protégé Effect Work?

This process works with young people for a number of reasons:

  • the tutee’s questions prompt the tutor to think about and explain the topic in different ways,
  • the tutor doesn’t want their students to fail because it would reflect poorly on them as teachers,
  • the tutor want their tutee to improve their skills incrementally, so the tutor tries to advance their own knowledge so that it can be transferred to their protégé, and
  • the tutor feel a sense of responsibility for their tutee’s learning and progress, causing them to emotionally identify with their protégé and their accomplishments.

How Does Youth Empowering Parents Utilize the Protégé Effect?

At Youth Empowering Parents (YEP), we enable young people from elementary to post-secondary school to teach everyday skills such as technology, music, English, and dance to their parents or other adult learners. In this way, these young people can advance their knowledge of and abilities in these activities while embodying the role of instructor. Two main themes arise when asking our youth volunteers what they achieved while teaching their adult learners:

1) They previously assumed that they knew everything about the topics they were assigned, but upon teaching the material they noted that there were actually many gaps in their knowledge, which teaching helped to fill, and

2) Teaching helped to reinforce what they already knew, especially in subjects like math and technology. For example, if there were math skills involved, they vaguely knew how to solve equations but weren’t confident, but teaching it improved their self-esteem and abilities, and helped them score better on tests.

The protégé effect is being put to the test in our organization and ones like it, resulting in higher learning and achievement among young people. While several other organizations have created cascading programs that enable young people to teaching even younger peers, at YEP we have flipped the narrative and allow our young volunteers to become instructors to parents and other adults. This way, youth are awarded with a sense of deep accomplishment and the ability to give back to diverse members of their community in meaningful ways. So next time you want to master that concept and ace your test, use the protégé effect method and learn while you teach!

Join Youth Empowering Parents on February 15, 2021 for a virtual event titled “Re-thinking the capabilities of children: What happens when students become teachers?” Sign up by visiting https://yepeducation.eventbrite.com/

One of only a handful to receive the United Nations’ Innovation Award, we’re turning young people from ‘educated’ to ‘educators’. www.yepeducation.com