L]ecture to the wall. Or lecture to yourself, the windshield, or an imaginary audience. This technique goes by different names, but every student should adopt it. I naturally did in middle school, and thought everyone did as well till I realized that this was not the case, at least not in the US.
I then read about it in Dr. Arthur Robinson’s (of the Robinson homeschool curriculum) discussion of his son Noah. Noah was very smart, yet academically underperforming. When he adopted this technique, he quizzed out of two years of college and earned a Ph.D. from CalTech with full scholarship. Here is his story, as told by his father.
I noticed that Noah was experiencing a difficulty identical to my own experience when I was his age. One reads the book but doesn’t really absorb it. Problem solving becomes an exercise in scrambling back through the text looking for formulas and combining these with computing tricks such as dimensional analysis. As the physics advanced, his error rate grew as high as 30%.
Then we read The Overnight Student by M. L. Jones. This book advocates that the student become an oral teacher of an imaginary class.
Noah tried this. Now, for about an hour each day, he closets himself in the press room where we have installed the equipment used to print and mail Access to Energy. There, he teaches the physics orally in small segments to an imaginary audience as he reads through the book. Students are naturally shy. None of us has heard him do this.
The result — his study time is reduced; he understands the material better; and his problem solving error rate has fallen essentially to 0%.
If you want to read The Overnight Student, it’s available in PDF.
This technique is effective because it forces you to learn the material through a presentation to an imaginary body of students. When you get stuck, you know where to review. The act of speaking publicly etches the material into your brain.