Why rote learning in Primary School can do more harm than good

Traditional teaching methods primarily involve significant memorization on the part of students.  Alternatively referred to as rote learning, memorization and drilling is part of a learning system that rewards precision and quantity of retention. It incentivizes information gathering over thinking and creativity. As students work their way through school, they may be memorizing a lot of information at each grade level — but does this really amount to useful learning? The answer to this is a resounding ‘No’. Simply regurgitating memorized information during exams without significant conceptual understanding is not the right way to promote critical thinking and communication. The focus on memorization, fueled by standardized testing, has obstructed learning, according to a body of research conducted by Stanford University. This study argues that students end up losing or squandering most of the information they acquire in school.

Memorization gets in the way of cognitive learning

Mindlessly reciting information is simply the act of knowing without learning or answering without understanding. Knowledge is significant. But how it is put to use is what makes for real learning, and distinguishes a student for his or her merit rather than plain rote acquiring of knowledge. Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia who has conducted extensive research on learning and memory, believes that drilling or memorization is akin to teaching methods of the late-19th century schoolhouses. Back then, students learned their lessons in unison, using a melodious tune, which would help them memorize a lot of information (like the entire list of state capitals) without really comprehending what they 'learned'.

Drill and kill?

A commonly used phrase among educational circles, ‘Drill and Kill’ is often used to refer to rote learning wherein memorization is frowned upon as a roadblock to active comprehension. Researchers from UC Irvine have discovered that when a child’s brain is exposed to the same thing over and over, it’s highly likely that small details tend to be altered or omitted. Therefore, understanding nuances becomes a challenge in the overall framework of repetitive learning. In the same vein, the brain does not learn how to build critical thinking and problem solving skills. Dynamic engaged learning is therefore non-existent in the whole scheme of things.

What Canadian International School (CIS) has to offer

Primary School at CIS is the perfect environment for students through Grades 1 to 6, to hone their inherent curiosity and develop it into a passion for lifelong learning. With a focused system that relies on a comprehensive model of learning, CIS Singapore curriculum draws from the best global methods and helps students develop cognitive abilities that prepare them for intensive academic life. Teaching instruction caters to each student’s needs, abilities and learning styles, resulting in a community of happy, confident and engaged learners.

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