Monday, June 13, 2011

Educational Theory of the Week: Memorization

Memorization: to commit to memory, to learn by heart.

Memorization is a bit of a dirty word in most education circles. It's not fun, and it normally involves flashcards. People (not just kids) struggle to memorize facts, especially if they deem the information irrelevant or boring. So let's look at the first part of the equation - is memorization necessary?

Knowledge is the first component of Boom's Taxonomy, and comprehension is the second. A basic example is learning multiplication facts, a task I loathed completing, but am now happy I know. Following Bloom's Taxonomy with the multiplication tables would be:

Knowledge - knowing the definition of multiplication and the knowledge of numbers.

Comprehension - understanding the multiplication tables.

Memorization requires a bit of both. The first two stages of Bloom's Taxonomy (knowledge and comprehension) seem a bit boring, a bit uninteresting. Learning vocabulary terms? Remembering the periodic table of elements? Understanding bones and muscles of a body? Never my favorite activities. In all of my years of teaching, I've never seen students get excited over memorizing, either. Students do get excited over writing fabulous speeches with specific and distinct words, blowing up things, and dissecting beings. And such activities cannot take place until memorization has occurred. 

Students cannot analyze a frog leg or evaluate the effectiveness of a speech outline until they have a base to rely upon - a base of knowledge. As a teacher, yes, I think memorization is necessary. Not always fun, but quite needed in all classes, at all levels.

So this non-fun, often boring aspect exists in education. Do students rebel against memorization? Do their parents? What are the repercussions of such behavior? Is school more fun, or do students know less basic facts? Please contribute; I'm open to all sides!

(I did an entire series on Bloom's Taxonomy if you want to understand it better. It is a hierarchy of learning).

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