Things You Must Know (But Don't) About Rote Learning

Rote learning application
Rote learning is a method of memorization via repetition. It is very common across various countries of the world, including, Brazil, China, India, etc. It has been used not only in academic learning but also to memorize spiritual texts. Learn more about rote learning in this post.
Sciences may be learned by rote, but wisdom not.
~ Laurence Sterne
Rote learning is a technique that involves memorizing subject matter via repetition, so that it may be recalled verbatim, as and when required. It is the most commonly used learning technique. It is often used to commit foundational knowledge to memory or when something has to be learned and remembered in a very short period of time.

It is often denigrated by being referred to as parrot learning, mugging up, regurgitation, etc because learning something by repetition does not necessarily signify that the text has been understood. However in some cases, it is the only way to learn and remember something. For example, when an individual is trying to learn a new and foreign language, he must learn by rote as the vocabulary, conjugation of verbs, and the inner complexity of the language is not explicit enough for the person to learn in a short time.
Methods of Rote Learning
Raw rehearsal
Girl reading book
It involves reciting a fact or subject matter repetitively again and again till it is permanently committed to memory and can be recited verbatim in the future. This method is time-consuming and does not require any form of thinking. It is a purely mechanical process. The repetition allows for the subject to be retained in the short-term memory for a prolonged time, thereby increasing its chances to be converted and committed to the long-term memory.
It involves the use of cards that exercise the process of active recall. This process involves remembering a solution when the brain is prompted with a particular question. It aids memorization by the concept of spaced repetition. This involves the reviewing of subject matter at regularly increasing intervals of time till it is committed to memory.
This memory tool helps in retaining information by remembering it in a form that is more retainable and easily remembered as compared to the original form. It includes converting the information to a auditory form, acronyms, or even a memorable phrase. It links the new information with older information already stored in the brain, to help easier recall.
Pros of Rote Learning
Boy solving mathematical equations
◆ It trains the brain to remember and helps to increase its capacity of retaining more information.

◆ It improves mental health and neural plasticity, thereby reducing chances of neuronal and cognitive degeneration.

◆ Memorization of common facts and formulae frees up the brain to carry out other more complex functions.
◆ It increases the working capacity of the short-term or working memory. This helps in easier learning of new concepts and also enhances creativity.

◆ It builds the foundation for the development of a higher-level of critical thinking skills.

◆ It increases focus and concentrative ability of the student, and repetitive use of this method helps in easier memorization of subject.
Cons of Rote Learning
◆ It provides an individual with knowledge but not the means to understand it.

◆ Foundations based purely on rote learning are weak, as the concepts are not understood by the individual, and hence cannot apply it in the future.

◆ It places more importance on memory than intelligence.

◆ Higher scores being scored by people carrying out rote learning, lead to the modification of the standardized tests in such a way that they test for memory skills rather than intelligence levels.
◆ Excessive rote learning leads to a state of semantic satiation, where the repeated words lose meaning to the person and resemble a jumble of meaningless sounds.

◆ Not understanding the underlying concepts in a subject leads the individual to build on that knowledge, failing to expand or apply that information.
Examples of Rote Learning
Girl writing multiplication table
❥ The memorization of multiplication tables, algebraic functions, equations, definitions, and axioms.

❥ Religions such as Hinduism or Buddhism orally transmitted their scriptural knowledge before the emergence of print.
Man reading quran
❥ The Jewish employ rote learning to memorize the Torah; while the Muslim madrasas use it to memorize the Qur'an.
Priest reading scriptures
❥ It is a helpful technique in constructing memory palaces, that are devices which visualize the organization and recalling of stored information.

❥ Specialized forms of rote learning in music are used in Vedic chanting to preserve their intonation and lexical accuracy.
Recently, educational systems are employing alternate methods of learning to help improve the conceptual knowledge of people. In an attempt to generate a more intelligent population, programs have been designed to lay more emphasis on meaningful learning, critical thinking, and communication of thought processes.