Rote Learning: Retaining Information Without Deepening Its Meaning
Do you remember when you learned to multiply? You repeat the same multiplication tables over and over. This is a technique called rote learning. Do you think this is a good learning method? In what cases do you think it can work? Do you often use rote learning? In this article we will delve into the characteristics of rote learning, its advantages and disadvantages, examples and also contrast with other types of learning. In addition, we will give you five tips to memorize.
What is rote learning?
Rote learning is based on mentally retaining data through repetition without processing it carefully. The memorized contents are not understood and no attempt is made to analyze their meaning. It is just mere repetition, enough times until they are retained in our memory.
Memory is one of our basic cognitive processes. It helps us to encode, consolidate and retrieve data later. The interaction between memory and learning is essential both in our education and in all areas of our lives. However, it is also relevant that their relationship helps us process the data properly and progress in our development.
Rote Learning – Features
- It is the most basic type of learning.
- It’s mechanical.
- The contents are arbitrarily related.
- Retention data are usually stored in short-term memory.
- The information is easily forgotten.
- This type of learning is usually discouraged.
Rote learning – Examples
Rote learning in education
Rote learning is used quite a lot in school. Generally, we remember repeating multiplication tables without understanding what we would do later with this information.
We also learned simple mathematical formulas and as many data related to numbers. However, it is not only used in math but also in other subjects. We used rote learning to learn the countries and their capitals, states, rivers, musical notes, elements of the periodic table, etc.
At university and even in working life, data are still retained without processing them in depth. This type of learning accompanies us throughout all the stages of our life.
Rote learning in everyday life
How did you learn your phone number, your partner’s birthday, your job address, social security number?
Rote learning helps us get throughout life without having to process everything we need at a certain point.
Rote Learning – Advantages and Disadvantages
Advantages of rote learning:
- It helps us to retain important data like dates.
- It’s a quick procedure.
- It is relatively simple.
Disadvantages of rote learning:
- It is easily forgotten.
- It doesn’t allow us to examine the information in depth.
- It doesn’t motivate us to continue learning data related to what we memorize.
Among students, it is quite common to take an exam relying on rote learning. However, when the question is relatively ambiguous or critical thinking is asked, the security of memorized information begins to fade.
Rote learning Vs Other Learning Types
Every situation requires different types of learning and each person uses their own learning methods.
1. Meaningful learning
Rote learning is closely linked to meaningful learning. David Ausubel was influenced by Piaget and developed the theory of meaningful learning. This theory maintains that we add content to the information we had previously. We adapt the data so that we can rank it and it can make sense for us.
Ausubel was a constructivist, this implies that he considered we are responsible for building our own reality and for our learning process. Meaningful learning contrasts sharply with memory, as it encourages people to learn, analyze and transform information to get new ideas.
Are rote learning and meaningful learning compatible?
We can imagine learning as a continuum at the ends of which are rote learning and meaningful learning on opposite sides. That is, it is possible to retain data using strategies relating to both types of procedures.
We can also consider rote learning as part of meaningful learning. In fact, both procedures can be complementary. Memory plays a vital role in learning. Even so, it is advisable to memorize the contents while trying to understand them.
For example, if we are trying to study US History, we are conscientiously reviewing each chapter and connecting it with experiences of our daily life, however, we will also need to memorize relevant dates to understand the historical context of the facts.
When this process occurs, we establish connections between two distinct stimuli. For example, it happens when we associate a certain smell with a certain person and we remember them every time we perceive a similar aroma.
3. Observational learning
Bandura’s theory of social learning explains how we acquire certain knowledge or behaviors through the situations we see. Still, he insists we are not robots. For example, if we live with people who speak very loudly, it is likely that we will also raise our voice.
4. Receptive learning
This type of learning is also passive, but it is not just about memorizing, it involves understanding the new information. A very common example is in classrooms when students simply listen to the teacher. Subsequently, the students reproduce the contents in the exam without internalizing their ideas or analyzing them personally.
5. Emotional learning
It is the one that helps us throughout our lives to understand and manage our own emotions. We practice emotional intelligence in situations such as patiently listening to a friend’s dilemmas or communicating how we feel at a given moment.
Rote Learning: 5 Tips to Memorize
Although it is advisable to acquire the necessary tools to know how to connect later the contents we learn with new ones, we can also benefit from rote learning for tasks such as remembering the names of our new co-workers. Find out five recommendations here to use rote learning effectively.
1. Organize information in blocks
George Miller, a cognitive psychologist, published an article called “The Magic Number Seven Plus Two” that dealt with the breadth of our short-term memory.
According to Miller, we can retain five to nine data without grouping them together. On the other hand, if we divide them into groups (chunking), our ability to work with these elements will increase. For example, if we want to remember the list of purchases, we will find it useful to divide it into fruits, vegetables, cleaning products, etc.
2. Use mnemonic rules
The Loci Method is the oldest known mnemonic technique. It consists in associating visually the elements that we wish to remember to certain places. For example, if you want to remember what to have to say during a presentation, you can associate each part with a portion of your journey to work, and recite them. This way you will not forget the order and can relate to images you see constantly.
However, there are different modalities of mnemonic rules. It is also possible and useful to invent new words with the initials of the words we want to remember, to associate songs with sentences, etc.
3. Try to repeat out loud without making mistakes
Imagine your goal is to learn your new class schedule. Read the data you want to remember out loud as often as you need to. When you feel ready try to say it calmly.
Take it slowly and repeat them as many times as you need to since this is a matter of practice.
4. Use color psychology
Each color transmits certain sensations and is commonly associated with very characteristic meanings. For example, red alerts us and reminds us of blood, love or suspense. On the other hand, white evokes tranquility, peace, and perfection (in our culture). You can take advantage of concepts related to colors to link them to the content that interests you.
5. Uses CogniFit
Neuroeducation is allowing amazing strides to be made in the field of learning. We can now benefit from clinical assessment tools and cognitive stimulation with which it is possible to easily detect our strengths and weaknesses at the cognitive level.
In fact, CogniFit is a leader in this field. It is an online platform that allows us to train our memory and other cognitive skills through entertaining and useful mental games. Challenge yourself, improve and train your memory!
Thank you very much for reading this article. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment below.
This article is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz Aldana, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.