Wednesday, March 30, 2011


There's nothing wrong with so-called rote memorization. I don't think I should have to familiarize myself with all the gauges and procedures in my car every time I sit in it. Some things are best learned to automaticity:

Memorization has long been out of vogue in the education establishment, and therefore many students aren't regularly tested for simple recall of new material. Teachers often emphasize learning methodologies like class discussion or concept mapping over factual recall, with the expectation that the former activities promote deeper learning that is superior to rote memorization.

But a new study finds that teachers who don't provide students frequent opportunities to practice retrieving information from their memories are denying them a valuable learning tool. It turns out that tests or other forced recall exercises aren't just passive evaluation tools. They actually help people learn, and are more effective than a number of other common study techniques.
I still remember some of the mistakes I made when Mrs. Barton drilled us in multiplication tables in 3rd grade, over 30 years ago. Drill and kill? No, drill and skill.


mazenko said...

Core knowledge is integral to success - from eventually internalizing every menial task from walking to the alphabet to times tables.

Effective readers and thinkers use "existing knowledge" to make sense of new information.

This fact in education is absolutely indisputable.

Steve USMA '85 said...

Darren, maybe Sylvanus Thayer was on to something?

Anonymous said...

And also lost on most who think they have all of the answers for educating kids!

Darren said...

Sylvanus Who?

Anonymous said...

Your comment about knowing the features on your dashboard to automaticity got me thinking how many things I know "to automaticity." Some of them I learned by repeated exposure outside a formal learning situation. Some of them stay in my brain, after the formal learning is over, because I continue to use them. But I could not have gotten started on using them, if I had not learned them well in the classroom. The list is very, very long: French vocabulary, how to use irregular verbs, how to manipulate fractions, major bones of the body, ALL of the countries of the world (very, very useful when watching the evening news), the different geological eras. What all these things do for me is provide a framework for understanding and thinking.