[appeared in Kyouiku Katei Shinbun December 1999]
The observation that people tend to understand a subject matter
better, if they talk about it with others or even have to teach it, is
not new. Student motivation through activation e.g. has been an
element of reform pedagogy at least since the beginning of this
century and is an important ingredient of the project method, free
study periods or learning circles.
But recently we also find attempts to apply this principle in a more systematic way in general school education.
Dr. Jean-Pol Martin, who teaches didactics at a German university and at the same time French for middle and high school students, has together with collegues developed the "LdL" method over the last 20 years in which students gradually take over more and more of the traditional teacher role in a class.
A class taught according to LdL could e.g. look like as follows: the
teacher assignes students' tasks some weeks in advance, and students
prepare for the lesson they are going to hold, discussing difficulties
with their teacher and showing him/her their written preparations for
During the actual lesson the student might first have the other students revise the previous lesson's subject, then he or she could introduce new subject matter and assign tasks to groups of students, have them practice and present results or lead discussions. At the end he explains about the homework.
Of course, varying degrees of student activities are possible according to students abilities and the nature of the respective subject matter. Not everything can be taught by the students, and the overall responsibility for the process remains with the teacher. But apparently students only need about a month in order to learn important basic teacher skills like presenting and assigning tasks. cf. the FAQs (http://www.ldl.de/faq/faq.htm).
According to Dr. Martin this method, which has first been developed
within foreign language teaching, has several advantages:
Students talk a lot more than the teacher, the whole lesson becomes more communicative.
Different groups of students present a subject in different ways, which can lead to deeper understanding.
Students are closer to the understanding of their peers, so that difficult matter is often dealt with more appropriately.
Students are less hesitant to ask when lacking understanding.
The student in charge of moderation also has to deal with disturbances, and social learning among all participants is enhanced in a variety of ways. (see a description of the method at http://www.ldl.de/usicht/methode.htm).
Whearas at first LdL had been practiced mainly in foreign language
teaching, and networking was achieved through offline means like
"contact letters", there are now a variety of subject resouces
available online, a mailing list exists, and diary
entries, participant and workshop information, research bibliography
etc. are accessable via the LdL home page
Some teachers have also started to use the Internet in LdL classes, e.g. Walter Schmalzl (http://home.t-online.de/home/Walter.Schmalzl/multimed.htm)for geography lessons.
Videos about LdL lessons can be obtained through contacting J.-P. Martin.