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Last Updated on January 7, 2021

12 Reasons Why Rote Learning Isn’t Effective in Learning

12 Reasons Why Rote Learning Isn’t Effective in Learning
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Rote learning is learning by memorizing rather than thinking and reasoning. While handy in some situations, rote learning isn’t the most effective learning process.

Most of us were exposed to rote learning early in our life when we memorized the alphabet, numbers, multiplication tables, and formulas. This often carries into high school as well, when we are fed dates, names, and grammatical rules. 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 that we reduce our dependence 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 for quick recall. 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 are many and varied and all are valid. However, when arguing the merits of rote memorization over meaningful thinking, one needs to keep the following points against rote learning in mind:[1]

1. Promotes Convergent Thinking

Rote learning trains a mind to solve problems with a single answer that is right, as opposed to meaningful thinking, which allows the mind to solve problems and 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. Denies 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 that is correct, but the rote learner will never develop the ability to explore the options that lead to the different answer.

3. Makes 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. Makes 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 to explore 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.

Many 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 and doesn’t promote holding information in your long-term memory.

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. Doesn’t Promote Deeper Understanding

Rote learning 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 solutions from a different angle, the student will never be able to answer it because s/he 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/her 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 information based on repetition.

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

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10. Doesn’t Challenge 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. Discourages 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 that is acceptable. This discourages discussions and further learning from social interactions.

Bottom Line

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 the nature of the topic taught or because it is the only way a student can learn.

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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, analyze, 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

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done

How to Stop Information Overload and Get More Done
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Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.) And that’s basically it.

Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this: Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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