The Serious Limitation of Rote Memorisation You Probably Don't Know About (And It's Undermining Learning)

Report on an interesting study showing how rote learning of some things results in increasingly creative interpretations of what we have tried to learn, which means it actually gets in the way of remembering, even though more details are recalled. The researchers note that this is not an issue with simple memorization of numbers, words, etc, but it can be an issue where more complex and relational things need to be recalled – the report mentions understanding the solar system as an example and the researchers used recollection of things in pictures for their study for their testing. In such cases, repetition means more things are remembered, but more things are remembered wrong. I’m wondering whether this affects different kinds of rote memorization, such as the muscle memory used when playing a musical instrument, or learning lines in a song or a play. I’m guessing these are more akin to simple recollections of words because they are a linear sequence, whereas the ways we perceive pictures rely on us choosing where to focus. 

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I am a professional learner, employed as a Full Professor and Associate Dean, Learning & Assessment, at Athabasca University, where I research lots of things broadly in the area of learning and technology, and I teach mainly in the School of Computing & Information Systems. I am a proud Canadian, though I was born in the UK. I am married, with two grown-up children, and three growing-up grandchildren. We all live in beautiful Vancouver.

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