Memorization vs Big Picture learning

Impactful learning lacks in memorization-based school environments

As 8 A.M. approaches on Friday morning, the hallways are lined with students hastily completing their Greek and Latin roots homework. There is a quiz today, and students will need to at least remember their words for the next few hours.

Yet, after the quiz has been passed, and the grade has been entered, the meaning of the words and their definitions will become largely obsolete to the busy students.

Five years from now, not many will remember that “tendentious” means “expressing or intending to promote a particular cause or point of view”. But they will remember the stress they endured trying to scribble the answers into their workbook just minutes before the bell.

Man tends to remember the things that impact them. Least to say, the definition of “concession” probably does not impact many students after it is forgotten over the weekend.

Long story short, memorization-based quizzes, such as repetitive vocab quizzes, are good for checking things off of the curriculum list, but the students might not understand the long-term meaning of the items being taught.

There are some solutions to this problem. One, from the perspective of the teacher, is that the student should do their work before 8 A.M. on Friday morning, before the ‘last minute’. However, with the workload carried by some ‘Advanced Placement’ students, ‘last minute’ work might have to be a last resort.

From the perspective of the student, teachers should not quiz as often on monotonous material, but rather, they should include the material in the context of real life situations and put those problems on a larger test.

With that being said, the solution is not clear. But the solution from a students’ perspective does provide for a more college-prep high school experience.

In college, students do not have repetitive, memorization-based quizzes. Many professors use only large tests to determine the students’ grade. And while this may hurt the grade of the students, it does test their knowledge of the material better than short, periodic quizzes that often just test one’s ability to memorize.

These few, large tests are greater portrayals of the students’ knowledge of the topic because they test how well the student is able to apply the information after having learned it a while ago.

Therefore, a more ‘college-like’ curriculum in the ways of testing would benefit the students. Test students on what they actually know, not how well they can cram information into their brains minutes before a quiz.

If students ‘know’ the material, they will succeed in big, periodic tests. If they do not, the teacher will know that they did not fully learn the material. This method is, therefore, a more effective method of long-term teaching.

Students are more prone to remembering material if they fully understand it, and the way to fully understand material is not by cramming for a short quiz. It is by learning the material for its’ ‘big picture’ impact in order to completely understand the information.

While grades might not be as high, the students who do learn the information thoroughly will be put in a better position heading into the rest of their lives. Also, the system would provide for an easier transition from high school to college for students.

All things considered, memorization is a skill needed in many jobs; still, teachers should not let it be the most important thing that students learn in high school.

– Grant Pepper


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