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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

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.

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

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

7 Reasons You Won’t Start Studying Until It’s Too Late, And What To Do About It

For most of us, the experience of studying for an exam can be captured in one word: panic. You’ve got 18 hours, exhausted, and sitting there staring at an equations sheet full of gibberish. Why? Why didn’t I start earlier?

Believe it or not, there are forces acting against you, pulling you away from starting early enough so that you can comfortably learn new material. Here are 7 of the most insidious reasons why you don’t start early, and what you can do about it.

1. You’re anticipating hard work

Procrastination is generally viewed as this guilt-ridden character defect shared almost universally by all students. The problem is, this is exactly what we should expect to happen from an evolutionary perspective.

Humans are known to be cognitive misers:[1] we conserve mental resources whenever possible, especially when facing tasks not viewed as “essential to our survival.”

In other words, we put off studying until the last minute because (1) we know the work is hard and will require a lot of mental energy, and (2) until there’s the threat of actually failing the exam (and therefore potentially being humiliated publicly) we’re not in enough emotional pain to motivate us to start studying.

Additionally, when your brain anticipates multiple outcomes that are all viewed as “painful” (the pain of studying vs. the pain of failing out of college) you become immobilized, unable to choose the lesser of two evils, and push off the work even further.

Schedule in time for yourself first and then fill in the gaps with study time.

As Niel Fiore discusses in bestselling classic, The Now Habit, part of the reason you procrastinate is because you see no end in site.

Think of the difference between a 100 yard dash and a marathon. In the first case you’re able to give maximum effort because you can see the finish line and know it will be over soon. The marathon runner is not so lucky. They know there’s a long road ahead filled with pain and exhaustion, and subconsciously conserve their effort to ensure they can make it through all 26.2 miles.

This is all to say, if you know you get to go hang out in your buddy’s dorm room and goof off for an hour after you study, you’re much more likely to want to invest that energy.

As a side benefit, you end up taking advantage of Parkinson’s Law. Because your work expands to fill the time allotted, by scheduling less time for studying, you actually become more productive and focused.

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2. You’re sleep deprived

Who in college isn’t pounding the caffeine?

Students who force themselves through weeks upon weeks of 4-6 hour sleep nights, are significantly deteriorating two aspects of their mental performance critical to studying for exams: motivation and vigilance.

Studies show that poor sleep negatively impacts motivation.[2] But really, no one needs a study to tell them how much worse your outlook on life is when you’re low on sleep.

And vigilance,[3]the ability to maintain concentrated attention over prolonged periods of time, is also significantly reduced during a period of either acute (staying up all night studying), or chronic (cutting sleep short for multiple days) sleep deprivation.[4]

Set yourself an end-of-the-day alarm.

Yes, studying more consistently for shorter chunks will allow you to spread it over a longer period of time; therefore, preventing the need to deprive yourself of sleep just to get your coursework done. But really, it’s a psychological issue.

There are a million things we’d rather stay up and do, than go right to bed after a full day of classes, only to have to get up and do the same thing over again. This is a chicken/egg problem: if I don’t get sleep I procrastinate studying, but if I go to bed I’ll just have to get up and study. Again, lose-lose. We need to break the cycle.

Set yourself an alarm. But not in the morning. Set your alarm for 45 minutes before when you should get to sleep and allow yourself to sleep for a full 8 hours. If you adhere to that you’ll be surprised how many hours of free time seem to materialize.

Study time + free time + sleep = happy and successful students.

3. You have a false sense of security

You may think you’re being a diligent student, sitting there in the lecture, listening intently, copying down page after page of notes from the professor. You might even be following along and raise your hand here and there. But there’s a big difference between feeling like you understand something, and actually being able to reproduce it on a test.

This is what we call passive learning, and it’s the best way to ensure that you’ll spend a lot of time and effort trying to learn new material, without actually being able to retain any of it.

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Quiz yourself.

Don’t be fooled by your professor’s overly logical explanations. This dude already knows the material, so it’s easy for him to explain it in a way that others find understandable. The real challenge is whether or not you can do the same.

If you’re wondering if you actually understand something, quiz yourself. Or better yet, explain it to someone (or yourself, but be warned: people tend to stare).

As Einstein liked to say, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

By routinely quizzing yourself, you’ll get a dose of reality of whether you actually know the material or not, instead of what most students do: assume they know it until the night before the test, when they proceed to freak out because they can’t do any of the practice problems.

4. Not all study time is created equal

Fact: seven hours of studying over 7 days is much more effective (more learning per time spent) for understanding new material than 7 hours of studying in one chunk. This is especially true for technical courses with new jargon you have to internalize.

Chunk your study time.

The brain uses a ton of energy (20% of our resting metabolic rate), and there’s only so much you can expend per day. To maximize your retention of new material, you want to take advantage of both active learning and recovery.

Because the brain consolidates new neural pathways during sleep, particularly during REM sleep, the more sleep cycles you intersperse between your study hours, the more likely it is that you will retain the material and be able to whip it out on test day.

This also allows you to take advantage of spaced repetition. Instead of having to constantly review your material to keep it in the forefront of your memory, you can follow a cycle of ever-increasing time intervals between review sessions (the “forgetting curve”), decreasing the overall amount of time needed to re-learn material you might have forgotten from the beginning of the semester when the final rolls around.

5. The planning fallacy

Humans systematically overestimate what can be accomplished in the short-term, and underestimate what can be accomplished in the long-term.

Ironically (and sadly), we only have this problem evaluating our own tasks – providing a pretty accurate picture of how long things will take when evaluating someone else’s situation objectively.

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Use the 50% rule.

Estimate as conservatively as you can, how much time it’s going to take to study for your exam, assuming you start early and work consistently.

Done?

Okay. Now add 50% to that estimate.

This will give you a more accurate picture of how much time you really need to allocate to starting studying.

6. You think you have more study time than you do

141025-study-definition

    Pull up your Sunday schedule. What do you see?

    Oh looks like I’ve got a big chunk of free time from 4pm to 10pm. Perfect, I’ll just squeeze in 5 or 6 hours of studying and then call it a night.

    Try again. It’s more like 2-3 hours.

    This is another type of planning mistake: overestimating how much productive time we can extract from any given period.

    Things we tend to forget: we need to eat; we need to sleep; there will be interruptions (yea right like you’re actually going to shut off your phone).

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    But another thing we fail to account for: the body goes through 90-120 minute activity cycles (called the Ultradian Rhythm). So even though you may be sitting there, highlighting your textbook for 3 hours straight, you really only have the ability to absorb material for 1.5 to 2 hours before you need a period of rest.

    Cut your estimated hours in half.

    If you think you have 8 hours on Sunday after the game to study, forget it. You actually have 4 or less when you take out time for eating, breaks, and normal daily activities.

    7. You can’t get motivated or focused

    A lot of us tend to sit around and wait…

    Waiting for the wave of motivation to strike us to finally get started on the homework assignment due in 24 hours, or studying for the midterm.

    Here’s the problem: motivation comes and goes, but the demands of school and learning and everyday life don’t. And if you’re relying on your motivation to keep you focused, everything you’re doing is going to be in a perpetual state of lateness and last-minute-ness, because there’s never enough motivation to go around.

    Focus on the process, with the end in mind.

    Why are you in school? Why do you want a degree? Get clear on exactly what your motivations are.

    But thinking about the future is not enough. That vision of the future that drives your emotional intensity needs to be linked to your daily activities. (e.g. “Each day I study for Calculus brings me one step closer to being a doctor and making a difference in people’s lives.”)

    What is the one set of activities each day that will virtually guarantee success in your coursework?

    And what can you do to organize your day, set up incentives, quit things that don’t matter, etc. to virtually guarantee you will do that one set of activities day in and day out, despite motivation?

    Featured photo credit: Melanie Deziel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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