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," defined as "a cognitive and emotional sensibility for interdependence."

Building neural network: websensibility as target
Martin attempted to transfer the brain structure, especially the operating model from neural networks - to classroom interactions. The activities conducted during the various lessons phases and their consequences are summarized in the following table:

Phases Students' behavior Teacher's behavior Additional comments
Preparation at home The students work intensively at home, because the quality of the classroom discussion (collective intelligence, emergence) depends closely on the students' ("the neurons") preparation. Students who are not prepared or who are often absent are not able to react to impulses or to "fire off" impulses themselves. The teacher ("the frontal cortex") has to perfectly master the content because he or she must be able to intervene at any time, completing or giving incentives in order to enhance the quality of classroom discussion Using LdL means that lesson time will not be used in order to communicate new content but instead for interaction either in little groups or with the entire class (collective knowledge constructing). The homework should prepare the students to interact on a high level during the lesson
Interactions during the lesson The students sit in a circle. Each student listens with concentration to the other students and asks questions if something in the explanations is not clear The teacher looks for absolute quietness and concentration during the explanations by students, so that each student may explain their thoughts without being interrupted and so that other students may ask questions of the student giving the lesson Using LdL means that during the presentations and interactions the students have to be absolutely quiet so that everybody is able to listen to the students' utterances. During the students' interactions, the teacher has to back off
Introduction: information gathering two by two: example "Dom Juan by Molière" Using "human resources": the students in charge of the course briefly present the new topic and let the other students discuss what is new about this topic (for example about Dom Juan by Molière) The teacher looks to see if the students really exchange their knowledge Using LdL means that the students' already existing knowledge about the new topic will be "inventoried" in little groups
First deepening: Gathering information in class The leading students inspire their classmates to interact (they are sitting in circle) as long as all the questions are asked and answered. The students interact like neurons in neural networks and thoughts "emerge". The teacher makes sure that each student has the opportunity to participate, and asks questions if something is not clear and needs to be clarified by the class (until the "emergence" has reach the desired quality) The previous knowledge from each student is interchanged within the full-classroom discussion and aligned, since the new content will be fed in.
Introducing the new content in the classroom (example: "Molière's humor in Dom Juan") The teaching students introduce the new content in small portions to their peers (for example, relevant scenes from Dom Juan) and they repeatedly ask questions in order to check if everything is clear The teacher observes the communication and intervenes if something is not clear. The teacher continues to let the students clarify what they have said if meaning or content are not completely clear By LdL the new content is shared in small portions and communicated step-by-step in the classroom.
The second deepening: Playing scenes Led by the teaching students, the relevant scenes will be played and memorized (for example the seduction of the peasant-maid by Don Juan) The teacher gives input of new ideas, and makes sure that there is adequate and successful scene-playing by the students In LdL the teacher is a director and is not afraid of interrupting if presentations in front of the other students are not expressive enough (workshop ambiance).
The third deepening: written homework (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 carefully corrects it In teaching younger grades the LdL tasks are prepared during the lessons themselves. For older grades, the preparation shifts more and more towards homework so that a bigger proportion of the teaching time is available for interactions (collective reflection

Advantages and disadvantages
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
planning abilities
presentation and moderation skills

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.

Reception of Martin's methods
Martin's work has been well 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). In didactics handbooks LdL has been described as an "extreme form of learner centred teaching"). On the university level, LdL has been disseminated by Joachim Grzega in Germany, Guido Oebel in Japan and Alina Rachimova in Russia.