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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

12 Reasons Why Rote Learning Isn’t Effective in Learning

12 Reasons Why Rote Learning Isn’t Effective in Learning

Rote learning is learning by memorizing rather than thinking and reasoning. While handy in some situations, rote learning isn’t the most effective way of learning.

Most of us have been exposed to rote learning early in our life when we memorized the alphabet, numbers, times tables and formulae. This habit can unfortunately carry on till much later when we are so used to being given information and simply using it, we don’t think about the logic behind the information itself.

In today’s world, there needs to be a conscious shift of processes so we reduce our dependency on memorizing and move towards learning based on understanding. While there are proponents of rote learning who present solid arguments in favor of the method, meaningful learning discourages it as it presents no opportunity to think and reason.

Rote learning is acceptable for memorizing dates, names, numbers and other information that has no meaning but is still important. It is when this carries forward to learning that should be approached meaningfully that problems arise.

Reasons rote learning is not the most effective way to learn for a number are many and varied and all are valid. However, when arguing the merits of rote learning over meaningful thinking, one needs to keep the following points against rote learning in mind:[1]

1. Promote Convergent Thinking

Rote learning trains a mind to solve problems with a single answer which is right, as opposed to meaningful thinking which allows the mind to reach different solutions.

When presented with a simple multiplication problem, a rote learner will always jump to the answer by recall while a person using divergent thinking will arrive at the same answer through different methods.

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2. Deny Exploring Different Options

A teacher presenting information to students in a manner that doesn’t allow or encourage questioning and divergent thinking is encouraging rote learning.

When learning by rote, learners are given the answer to a question and that’s the only answer they know.

Unless the question is a mathematical one, there may be more than one answer which is correct, but the rote learner will never develop the ability to explore the options that lead to the different answer.

3. Make People Passive Learners

Rote learners never learn to question and explore. Their minds are trained to receive information and recall it at the right time.

These people develop their listening and writing skills but not their thinking and questioning skills. Taken out of their comfort zone, passive learners will be quiet and disinterested in the proceedings around them.

4. Make People Followers, Not Leaders

Because rote learning is the drilling of specific information, people exposed to this system are used to following instructions without having the freedom to think for themselves and reach the same conclusion a different way or even a different solution altogether.

When put in management positions, rote learners may not be able to display leadership skills which almost always require thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative solutions.

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5. Not Allowing Connections to Form

Since rote learning teaches just one answer, people who learn like this cannot make mental connections between the knowledge they already have, and reaching a solution to the problem they are working on.

A lot of times, rote learners can reach the same conclusion through different means or make mental connections to reach a whole new answer that may still be correct. However, since they’re not exposed to the alternate methods, they fail to recognize the opportunity and think only of the solution they have been taught.

Another way to phrase this could be “learning from experience.” A student who understands history will know why the world is the way it is and, based on past events can guess what will happen in the future. However, one who has only learned dates and events cannot do the same.

6. It Is Short-Term

Rote learning promotes short-term memory. Apart from certain exceptions like the times tables and period table values, most rote learning is for those who want the knowledge for a certain purpose.

For example, a student might learn the Pythagoras Theorem for an exam but will almost immediately forget the instances in which the theorem might be used.

7. Not Promoting Understanding

Rote can be considered a “quick-fix” solution to gaining knowledge.

It is the lazy person’s answer to teaching and learning. The teacher will inform the students of the answer to a particular problem without really explaining how the answer was reached or encouraging the students to find the answer for themselves.

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The students, on the other hand, will accept the teacher’s version of the answer without questioning the method. And if presented the same question in a different manner, they will not be able to solve it even though they “know” the answer.

The grasp a student has on the subject is limited to how detailed the answer is and in most cases, it is not very much.

If a particular question might require solution from a different angle, the student will never be able to answer it because she has not been taught to.

8. It Is Geared Towards Scoring

Learning should be something that promotes understanding and bases knowledge gained on how problems are approached and solved.

In the rote learning method, the emphasis is on getting a higher score. Exams are marked on a student’s answer to a question, not his understanding of it. This means a student may have aced a certain subject without having full understanding of it.

9. It Is Repetitive

Since rote learning is nothing but memorizing information, it relies heavily on repetition of said information.

The learner needs to constantly reinforce a certain knowledge bite and this repetition stifles thought exploration and creativity when finding answers to a problem.

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10. Not Challening the Brain

Rote learning presents an answer to the learner and expects them to learn it and reproduce it as required; whereas meaningful thinking challenges the learner to “prove it.”

In meaningful thinking, the burden of proving the answer lies firmly on the learners, and they need to come up with a plausible explanation for the conclusion they reached.

On the other hand, in rote learning, there is nothing for the learner to prove. They have been provided the answer and know it’s right, so they are well within their comfort zone when presenting a solution.

12. Discourage Social Skills

Group studies, research and other factors that make up meaningful learning encourage socialization and learning from peers.

Rote learning has the opposite effect because information has already been transferred by a single source, and it is the only one which is acceptable. This discourages discussions and further learning from social interactions.

Bottom Line

At the end, what I would like to clarify is that rote learning and meaningful learning are two sides of the same coin. They bridge the learning gap.

There are some instances when rote learning is the only way to learn, whether it is because of nature of the topic taught or because it is the only way a student can learn.

However, it is very important to recognize that rote learning is not the most effective way to learn most things. Meaningful learning, where the learner is taught to question, think and arrive at a solution from a different angle is how true learning takes place.

More Tips About Effective Learning

Featured photo credit: Siora Photography via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on June 22, 2020

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

I spent five years as a middle and high school teacher, and I would often hear people talking about learning styles. “Betty is a visual learner. Sam is kinesthetic. Emma is an auditory learner.”

I hadn’t read any research about learning styles at the time, but on the face of it, it makes sense. Some people seem to learn better when they see things, others when they’re active, and some when they hear things. I know that I really struggle when someone spells a word aloud. I have no idea what word they’re spelling. I’ve always just made the excuse that I’m a visual learner and will need them to write it down for me. But is there any truth to learning styles?

Before we delve into the characteristics of a smart auditory learner, let’s take a step back and explore what research says about learning styles more generally.

Debunking Learning Styles

In the 1990s, a New Zealand school inspector named Neil Fleming[1] came up with a questionnaire to measure people’s preferred learning style. Now called the VARK questionnaire, it’s still used today to discern whether people are Visual, Auditory, Read/Write, or Kinesthetic learners.

Fleming’s learning styles theory gained popularity over the decades, but no studies have confirmed its legitimacy. In a study by Polly Husmann and Valerie Dean O’Loughlin[2], they found that people who used their preferred learning style did not see any improvements in learning outcomes. In short, there was no correlation between learning style and actual learning.

Another study by Abby R. Knoll, Hajime Otani, Reid L. Skeel, and K. Roger Van Horn[3] also found that learning style had no relationship with recall. Participants who preferred visual learning did not recall images they saw any better than words they heard.

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There’s no evidence that learning styles help people learn or recall. Instead, they should be thought of as a learning preference. I prefer when people write things down for me, but there’s no evidence that this improves my recall.

7 Characteristics of a Smart Auditory Learner

Having a preference for auditory learning means you gravitate toward verbal communication. Audiobooks and lectures might be your cup of tea instead of the charts and graphs of a visual learner.

So what if you think you’re an auditory learner? Let’s say you have a knack for processing audio communication and can close your eyes and pick up all the important details of a lecture or audiobook. The following list is for you. Here are 7 characteristics of smart auditory learners—people who use their auditory preference to their advantage.

1. They Take Learning Styles With a Grain of Salt

This bears repeating. There is no evidence that people’s learning styles impact their learning, so a smart auditory learner definitely takes learning styles with a grain of salt.

Think of it as a preference. Smart auditory learners know they prefer audiobooks and hearing things out loud, so there’s no harm leaning into that preference.

Just don’t assume it’s going to improve your test scores.

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2. They Get Rid of Distractions

Just because you’re an auditory learner doesn’t mean you can sift through lots of auditory inputs at once. No matter your learning preference, make sure you put effort into limiting distractions.

An auditory learner might struggle to study while listening to music or have difficulty working with the TV on because they’re so receptive to auditory information. Therefore, you should find a quiet place to learn, so you can focus all your energy on whatever it is you’re trying to retain.

3. They Match Learning Task With Learning Style

The real secret to improving your retention and recall is to match the learning task with the learning style. A smart auditory learner knows the best time to rely on auditory learning. They don’t always fall back on listening. Instead, they strategize the best approach for each individual learning challenge.

For example, I might know that I favor visual learning, but if I need to memorize my lines in a play, I might be better served recording the other characters’ lines, so I can practice saying my lines when I hear my cues.

Maybe I’m more kinesthetic. That doesn’t mean that I have to move to learn. Instead, I have to be strategic about when and how I add movement to my learning process. It might make sense for me to memorize countries or states by drawing a giant map and running to the right spot when someone yells out that geographic location. However, it doesn’t make much sense to dance around while I’m reading Foucault. The learning style should be in service of whatever it is that’s being learned.

Instead of catering to people’s learning preferences, we should be matching the learning style with the task at hand. Ask yourself, “What’s the best style (visual, auditory, kinesthetic, reading/writing) for this particular learning task?”

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4. They Use Their Voice

Auditory learners might need to read things aloud or listen to audiobooks instead of silently reading. Adding your voice can help turn reading/writing into an auditory exercise.

Get creative with it. If you consider yourself to be an auditory learner, think of different ways to add an audio element to your learning. Sing it. Yell it. Turn it into a poem. Just don’t get stuck in the reading/writing learning style when you prefer to be hearing and listening.

5. They Practice Listening

Smart auditory learners don’t take listening for granted. Just because you prefer auditory learning doesn’t mean you’re great at it. Instead, smart auditory learners take their preference and improve it over time.

Practice your listening skills. Give people your undivided attention, clarify what you’ve just heard, and challenge yourself to be as active and present a listener as possible.

Asking clarifying questions and repeating back what you’ve just heard can help you assess how accurate your listening is[4]. You should also transfer what you’ve heard to other learning styles. Write it down or draw it as pictures, charts, and graphs. That brings us to the next characteristic of smart auditory learners.

6. They Use All Learning Styles

Smart auditory learners use all the learning styles. They may have a preference for listening, but using all types of inputs helps improve retention and recall.

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If you’re studying for an exam, don’t just record your notes as audio or listen to online lectures. Use flashcards, read your notes out loud, quiz yourself, create an active game that requires you to move around, and teach the concepts to your roommate. This gets as many parts of your brain and body involved in the learning as possible, which increases your odds of retaining the information and acing the exam.

7. They Reflect on What Works and What Doesn’t

Smart auditory learners are also reflective and self-aware learners. After you try a learning strategy, assess and reflect on how it went. Did you retain as much information as you’d hoped? Build off your successes and change strategies when a learning style isn’t working for you.

Smart auditory learning is really just smart learning. Create a game plan that uses multiple, appropriate learning styles. Then, follow through by removing distractions and studying your heart out. After assessing how much you’ve retained, reflect on what worked and what didn’t. Then, refine your game plan for more success next time.

Final Thoughts

It would be magical if learning styles were a silver bullet for learning. I’d love to be able to say I’m a visual learner and then be able to recall every single piece of information just by seeing it represented visually. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how learning styles work.

Learning is complex and messy. Just because we prefer one learning style doesn’t mean it helps us learn better. What we really need to do is experiment with all the learning styles and try to match the right learning styles with each specific task.

Knowing your learning style is important. It’s good to know how you prefer to receive information. Just don’t stop there. Use your preference for auditory learning strategically and when it makes sense to do so.

More Tips for When You’re an Auditory Learner

Featured photo credit: Blaz Erzetic via unsplash.com

Reference

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