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Student teaching vocabulary

In professional education, learning by teaching (German: LdL) designates a method that allows pupils and students to prepare and to teach lessons, or parts of lessons. Learning by teaching should not be confused with presentations or lectures by students, as students not only convey a certain content, but also choose their own methods and didactic approaches in teaching classmates that subject. Neither should it be confused with tutoring, because the teacher has intensive control of, and gives support for, the learning process in learning by teaching as against other methods.


Seneca told in his letters to Lucilius that we are learning if we teach (epistulae morales I, 7, 8): docendo discimus (lat.: "by teaching we are learning"). At all times in the history of schooling there have been phases where students were mobilized to teach their peers. Frequently, this was to reduce the number of teachers needed, so one teacher could instruct 200 students. However, since the end of the 19th century, a number of didactic-pedagogic reasons for student teaching have been put forward.

Students as teachers in order to spare teachers

In 1795 the Scotsman Andrew Bell[1] wrote a book about the mutual teaching method that he observed and used himself in Madras. The Londoner Joseph Lancaster picked up this idea and implemented it in his schools. This method was introduced 1815 in France in the "écoles mutuelles", because of the increasing number of students who had to be trained and the lack of teachers. After the French revolution of 1830, 2,000 "écoles mutuelles" were registered in France. Due to a political change in the French administration, the number of écoles mutuelles shrank rapidly and these schools were marginalized. It is important to stress that the learning level in the Bell-Lancaster-schools was very low. In hindsight, the low level can probably be attributed to the fact that the teaching-process was delegated entirely to the tutors and that the teachers did not supervise and support the teaching process.

Students as teachers in order to improve the learning-process

The first attempts using the learning by teaching method in order to improve learning were started at the end of the 19th century.
Selective descriptions and researches
Accurate researches are starting in the middle of the 20th century, however just as selective descriptions. For instance Gartner 1971[2] in the US, in Germany Krüger 1975,[3] Wolfgang Steining 1985,[4] Udo Kettwig 1986,[5] Theodor F. Klassen 1988,[6] Ursula Drews 1997[7] and A. Renkl 1997[8]
LdL as a comprehensive method
The method received broader recognition starting in the early eighties, when Jean-Pol Martin developed the concept systematically for the teaching of French as a foreign language and gave it a theoretical background in numerous publications.[9] 1987 he founded a network of more than a thousand teachers that employed learning by teaching (the specifical name: LdL = "Lernen durch Lehren") in many different subjects, documented its successes and approaches and presented their findings in various teacher training sessions.[10] From 2001 on LdL has gained more and more supporters as a result of educational reform movements started throughout Germany.

Learning by teaching by Martin (LdL)

LdL by Martin consists of two components: a general anthropological one and a subject-related one.

  • The anthropological basis of LdL is related to the pyramid or hierarchy of needs introduced by Abraham Maslow, which consists, from base to peak, of 1) physiological needs, 2) safety/security, 3) social/love/belonging, 4) esteem/self-confidence and 5) being/growth through self-actualization and self-transcendence. Personal growth moves upward through hierarchy, whereas regressive forces tend to push downward. The act of successful learning, preparation and teaching of others contributes to items 3 through 5 above. Facing the problems of our world today and in the future, it is essential to mobilize as many intellectual resources as possible, which happens in LdL lessons in a special way. Democratic skills are promoted through the communication and socialization necessary for this shared discovery and construction of knowledge.
  • The subject related component (in foreign language teaching) of LdL aims to negate the alleged contradiction between the three main components: automatization of speech-related behavior, teaching of cognitively internalized contents and authentic interaction/communication.

The LdL-approach

After intensive preparation by the teacher, students become responsible for their own learning and teaching. The new material is divided into small units and student groups of not more than three people are formed. Each group familiarizes itself with a strictly defined area of new material and gets the assignment to teach the whole group in this area. One important aspect is that LdL should not be confused with a student-as-teacher-centered method. The material should be worked on didactically and methodologically (impulses, social forms, summarizing phases etc.). The teaching students have to make sure their audience has understood their message/topic/grammar points and therefore use different means to do so (e.g. short phases of group or partner exercises, comprehension questions, quizzes etc.). An important effect from LdL is to develop the students websensibility.

Building neural network: websensibility as target

Martin made first steps in order to transfer the brain structure - especially the operating mode from neural networks - on the classroom-discourse [11]. The consequences regarding the lessons phases and the differences to the other methods will be summed up in the following overview[12]:

Phases Students behavior Teachers behavior Differences to other methods
Preparation and postprocessing at home All the students work very intensively at home, because the quality of the classroom-discourse (collective intelligence, emergence) depends closely from the students ("neurons") preparation. Students who are not prepared or who often are absent are not able to react to impulses and to "fire off" impulses themselves The teacher ("frontal cortex") has to perfectly master the contents because he must be able to intervene anytime completing or giving incentives in order to enhance the classroom-discourse quality Using LdL means that the lesson-time will not be used in order to communicate new contents but for interactions in little groups or in the plenum (collective knowledge constructing). The homework has to prepare the students to interact on a high level during the lesson
Interactions during the lesson The students are sitting in circle. Each student is listening very concentrated to the other students and asks questions if something in the explanations is not clear The teacher is looking for absolute quietness and concentration during the explanations by students, so that each student may explain their thoughts without being disturbed and so that other students may ask questions to the student giving the lesson Using LdL means that during the presentations and plenum-interactions the students have to be absolutely quiet so that everybody is able to listen the students utterances. During the students interactions, the teacher has to back off
Introduction: informations gathering two by two: example "Dom Juan by Molière" Using "human resources": the students in charge of the course shortly present the new topic and let the other students discuss what is new about this topic (for example about Don Jiovanni by Mozart) The teacher is looking if the students really exchange their knowledge Using LdL means that the already existing students-knowledge about the new topic will be inventoried in little groups
First deepening: Gathering informations in the class The leading students animate their classmates to interact (they are sitting in circle) as long as all the questions are asked and cleared. The students interact like neurones in neuronal networks and thoughts are "emerging". The teacher cares for the opportunity of each student to intervene, the teacher asks questions if something is not clear and has to be clarified by the class through interacting (until the "emergence" has reach the eligible quality) The previous knowledge from each student will be interchanged within the plenum-classroom-discourse and aligned, since the new contents will be fed in.
Introducing the new contents in the classroom (example: "Molières humor in Dom Juan") The teaching students introduce the new contents divided in little portions to their peers (for instance relevant scenes from Dom Juan) and they ask repeatedly questions in order to test if everything is clear The teacher is observing the communication and intervenes if something is not clear. The teacher continues to let the students clarify what they have said if means or contents are not completely clear By LdL the new contents are shared in little portions and communicated step by step in the classroom.
The second deepening: Playing scenes Lead by the teaching students the relevant scenes will be played and memorized (for example the seduction from the peasant-maid by Don Juan) The teacher gives input of new ideas, and cares for adequate and successful scene-playing by the students In LdL the teacher is a director and is not afraid of interrupting if plays in front of the other students are not expressive enough (workshop ambiance).
The third deepening: written house article (text task, interpretation of a place, for instance, Don Juan's discussion with his father) All pupils work hard at home The teacher collects all homework and corrects it very exactly In teaching younger years the LdL tasks are prepared during the lessons themselves. For older years, the preparation shifts more and more towards homework so that a bigger proportion of the teaching time is available for interactions (collective reflection) .

Most teachers using the method do not apply it in all their classes or all the time. They state the following advantages and disadvantages:


  • Student work is more motivated, efficient, active and intensive due to lowered inhibitions and an increased sense of purpose
  • By eliminating the class division of authoritative teacher and passive audience, an emotive solidarity is obtained.
  • Students may perform many routine tasks, otherwise unnecessarily carried out by the instructor
  • Next to subject-related knowledge students gain important key qualifications like

- teamwork

- planning abilities

- reliability

- presentation and moderation skills

- self-confidence


  • The introduction of the method requires a lot of time.
  • Students and teachers have to work more than usual.
  • There is a danger of simple duplication, repetition or monotony if the teacher does not provide periodic didactic impetus.

The Martin-reception

Martins Work has been largely received in teacher training and by practicing teachers: since 1985 more than 100 teacher students in all subjects wrote their ending thesis about LdL. Also the education administration received both the theory and the practice of LdL (vgl.Margret Ruep 1999[13]). In didactics handbooks LdL has been described as an "extreme form of learner centred teaching"[14]). On the university level, LdL has been disseminated by Joachim Grzega in Germany, Guido Oebel [15] in Japan and Alina Rachimova [16] in Russia.

Learning by teaching outside the LdL-context

Psychology of education

On the field of psychology of education in Germany A. Renkl did research about Learning by teaching almost without referring to Martin. In his publication 1997 he briefly quoted Martin but in his article from 2006 in the Handbook of psychology of education he just quoted English articles.[17] Eventually he comes to following judgment: "Regarding Learning by teaching the publications shows partly very euphoristic judgments about Learning by teaching (...). Considering the empirical researches this statements must be estimated with caution. Learning by teaching may but doesn't must work successfully." And further: "Thus further researches have to consider above all the utterly important practical and theoretical question, which conditions have to be given in order to reach good results using Learning by teaching as teaching method." Exactly this researches have been done for 25 years by the team surrounding Jean-Pol Martin.

Sudbury schools

Sudbury schools do not segregate students by age, so that students of any age are free to interact with students in other age groups. One effect of this age mixing is that a great deal of the teaching in the school is done by students. Here some statements about Learning by teaching in the Sudbury Schools [18]:

"Kids love to learn from other kids. First of all, it's often easier. The child teacher is closer than the adult to the students difficulties, having gone through them somewhat more recently. The explanations are usually simpler, better. There's less pressure, less judgment. And there's a huge incentive to learn fast and well, to catch up with the mentor.
Kids also love to teach. It gives them a sense of value, of accomplishment. More important, it helps them get a better handle on the material as they teach; they have to sort it out, get it straight. So they struggle with the material until it's crystal clear in their own heads, until it's clear enough for their pupils to understand." (pages?)

See also

  • Bell-Lancaster method



  1. Andrew Bell: Expériences sur l'éducation faite à l'école des garçons à Madras, 1798
  2. Alan Gartner et al.: Children teach children. Learning by teaching. Harper & Row, New York 1971
  3. Rudolf Krüger: Projekt „Lernen durch Lehren“. Schüler als Tutoren von Mitschülern'.' Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbronn 1975
  4. Wolfgang Steinig: Schüler machen Fremdsprachenunterricht. Tübingen: Narr.1985
  5. Udo Kettwig: Lernen durch Lehren, ein Plädoyer für lehrendes Lernen. In: Die deutsche Schule, Nr. 4 1986, 474-485
  6. Theodor F. Klassen: Lernen durch Lehren, das Beispiel der Jenaplanschule Ulmbach. Zeitschrift Pädagogik, Nr. 11 1988, (S. 26-29)
  7. Ursula Drews (Hrsg.): Themenheft: Schüler als Lehrende. PÄDAGOGIK. 11/49/1997. Beltz-Verlag, Weinheim
  8. Alexander Renkl:Lernen durch Lehren. Zentrale Wirkmechanismen beim kooperativen Lernen. Deutscher Universitätsverlag: Wiesbaden, 1997.
  9. Jean-Pol Martin:Zum Aufbau didaktischer Teilkompetenzen beim Schüler. Fremdsprachenunterricht auf der lerntheoretischen Basis des Informationsverarbeitungsansatzes. Dissertation. Tübingen: Narr. 1985; Jean-Pol Martin: Vorschlag eines anthropologisch fundierten Curriculums für den Fremdsprachenunterricht. Habilitation. Tübingen: Narr 1994. Jean-Pol Martin: Das Projekt „Lernen durch Lehren“ - eine vorläufige Bilanz. In: Henrici/Zöfgen (Hrsg.): Fremdsprachen Lehren und Lernen (FLuL). Themenschwerpunkt: Innovativ-alternative Methoden. 25. Jahrgang (1996). Tübingen: Narr, S. 70-86 (PDF; 0,2 MB), Jean-Pol Martin (2002a): Weltverbesserungskompetenz als Lernziel? In: Pädagogisches Handeln – Wissenschaft und Praxis im Dialog, 6. Jahrgang, 2002, Heft 1, S. 71-76 (PDF)
  10. Jean-Pol Martin (1989): Kontaktnetz: ein Fortbildungskonzept, in: Eberhard Kleinschmidt,E.(Hrsg.), Fremdsprachenunterricht zwischen Fremdsprachenpolitik und Praxis: Festschrift für Herbert Christ zum 60. Geburtstag, Tübingen. 389-400, (PDF 62 KB)
  11. Jean-Pol Martin (2004)in: Treibhäuser der Zukunft - Wie in Deutschland Schulen gelingen. Eine Dokumentation von Reinhard Kahl und der Deutschen Kinder- und Jugendstiftung. ISBN 3-407-85830-2 (BELTZ), DVD 3
  12. Jean-Pol Martin, Guido Oebel (2007): Lernen durch Lehren: Paradigmenwechsel in der Didaktik?, In: Deutschunterricht in Japan, 12, 2007, 4-21 (Zeitschrift des Japanischen Lehrerverbandes, ISBN 1342-6575)
  13. Margret Ruep(1999): Schule als Lernende Organisation - ein lebendiger Organismus, in: Margret Ruep (Hg.)(1999): Innere Schulentwicklung - Theoretische Grundlagen und praktische Beispiele. Donauwörth: Auer Verlag, S.17-81, insbesondere 32ff.
  14. Andreas Nieweler (Hrsg.)(2006): Fachdidaktik Französisch - Tradition|Innovation|Praxis. Stuttgart: Klett, 2006. S.318
  15. Guido Oebel: Lernen durch Lehren (LdL) im DaF-Unterricht. Eine „echte" Alternative zum traditionellen Frontalunterricht. In: Petra Balmus/Guido Oebel/Rudolf Reinelt (Hg.) Herausforderung und Chance. Krisenbewältigung im Fach Deutsch als Fremdsprache in Japan. 2005· ISBN 978-3-89129-404-8
  16. Alina Rachimova (2007): Multimedia in der Ausbildung. 2007
  17. Alexander Renkl: Lernen durch Lehren, in: Detlef Rost (Hrsg.)(2006): Handwörterbuch Pädagogische Psychologie. 3.Aufl. Weinheim: Beltz Verlag. 2006. S.416-420
  18. Daniel Greenberg: Age Mixing, Free at Last - The Sudbury Valley School. (editor?, location?), 1995 ISBN 1888947004, (quoted pages?)


  • Alan Gartner, Mary Conway Kohler, Frank Riessman: Children teach children. Learning by teaching. Harper & Row, New York u.a. 1971, ISBN 0-06-013553-0.
  • Rudolf Krüger: Projekt „Lernen durch Lehren“. Schüler als Tutoren von Mitschülern. Klinkhardt, Bad Heilbrunn/Obb. 1975, ISBN 3-7815-0243-0.
  • Jean-Pol Martin: Zum Aufbau didaktischer Teilkompetenzen beim Schüler. Fremdsprachenunterricht auf der lerntheoretischen Basis des Informationsverarbeitungsansatzes. Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1985, ISBN 3-87808-435-8. (zugl. Dissertation, Universität Gießen 1985)
  • Jean-Pol Martin: Vorschlag eines anthropologisch begründeten Curriculums für den Fremdsprachenunterricht. Narr Verlag, Tübingen 1994, ISBN 3-8233-4373-4. (zugl. Habilitations-Schrift, Universität Eichstätt 1992)
  • Jean-Pol Martin, Guido Oebel (2007): Lernen durch Lehren: Paradigmenwechsel in der Didaktik?, In: Deutschunterricht in Japan, 12, 2007, 4-21 (Zeitschrift des Japanischen Lehrerverbandes, ISBN 1342-6575)
  • Guido Oebel: Lernen durch Lehren (LdL) im DaF-Unterricht. Eine „echte" Alternative zum traditionellen Frontalunterricht. In: Petra Balmus, Guido Oebel u. Rudolf Reinelt (Hrsg.): Herausforderung und Chance. Krisenbewältigung im Fach Deutsch als Fremdsprache in Japan. Iudicium, München 2005, ISBN 3-89129-404-2. (Kongressdokument der DaF-Werkstatt Westjapan, 2003: Beiträge zur DaF-Werkstatt Westjapan, Ryukyu-Universität, Okinawa, Japan, 12. - 14. Dezember 2003)
  • Alexander Renkl: Lernen durch Lehren. Zentrale Wirkmechanismen beim kooperativen Lernen. Dt. Universitätsverlag, Wiesbadenm u.a. 1997, ISBN 3-8244-4228-0. (zugl. Habilitations-Schrift, Universität München 1996)
  • Christine Schelhaas: „Lernen durch Lehren“ für einen produktions- und handlungsorientierten Fremdsprachenunterricht. Ein praktischer Leitfaden mit zahlreichen kreativen Unterrichtsideen und reichhaltiger Materialauswahl. 2., verb. Aufl., Tectum-Verlag, Marburg 2003, ISBN 3-8288-8548-9.

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