Home Study The Protégé Effect

The Protégé Effect

by Kevin Yang

The protégé effect is a psychological phenomenon where teaching, pretending to teach, or preparing to teach information to others helps a person learn that information. For example, a student who is studying for an exam could benefit from the protégé effect and improve their understanding of the relevant material, by teaching that material to their peers.

 

The protégé effect is primarily associated with the academic context, where teaching others can help you learn material that you need to learn yourself. However, the protégé effect can also benefit you in a variety of other, non-academic environments. For example:

 

  • When it comes to hobbies, teaching basic skills to novices can help you refine and master those skills yourself.
  • When it comes to work, explaining important procedures to new employees can help you remember those procedures better yourself.
  • When it comes to general knowledge, explaining concepts that you’re interested in to people who aren’t familiar with them can help you improve your understanding of those concepts.

The protégé effect helps you learn information better as a result of several psychological mechanisms, all of which revolve around the differences between how we learn information when we’re learning for ourselves, compared to how we learn it when we expect to teach others, as well as when we teach them in practice. Specifically:

 

  • Expecting to teach and teaching can lead to increased metacognitive processing, which makes people more actively aware of their learning process.
  • Expecting to teach and teaching can lead to increased use of effective learning strategies, such as organizing the material and seeking out key pieces of information.
  • Expecting to teach and teaching can lead to increased motivation to learn, since people will often make a greater effort to learn for those that they will teach, than they do for themselves.
  • Expecting to teach and teaching can lead to increased feelings of competence and autonomy, by encouraging people to view themselves as playing the role of a teacher, rather than that of the student.

How to take advantage of the protégé effect

 

  • Learn the material as if you’re going to teach it to others. For example, this could entail trying to learn the material well enough that you would feel comfortable explaining it to someone else later, and finding the answers to likely questions that people might ask you on the topic.
  • Pretend that you’re teaching the material to someone. The more realistic this will feel, the more you will benefit from the protégé effect, so it can be worthwhile to put effort into visualizing this and to do this aloud. Furthermore, while doing this, you can go beyond just explaining the material, and also pretend that you’re being asked specific questions about the material, by the person that you’re teaching it to.
  • Teach the material to other people in reality. This involves actually meeting other people and teaching them, either one-on-one or in a group setting. Though this approach takes the most effort, it can also lead to the greatest benefits, especially since knowing that you’re actually going to teach someone will likely provide you with the greatest boost to your motivation.

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