Claire Hallaway

Senior Janie Brunell uses flash cards to study.

2 Side, 1 Issues: The merits of memorization

October 26, 2018

Memorization is a crucial tool for learning

Memorization is often frustrating and can seem like a waste of time, but it’s healthy for the brain and is an important type of learning. Memorization in school is often criticized as not actually learning. But, memorization is actually a crucial tool for learning new information. Engaging in different learning styles, including memorization, enables students to gain a deeper understanding of new information.   

Middle school learning specialist Jennie Sorenson said “memorization, would be considered one of the lower levels of learning” but she still considers it a kind of learning, that can be an important step in the learning process. She believes that it’s easier to remember, or memorize something, if you actually know what it means.

According to an article compiled by UC Denver, there are four main categories for memorizing information: organizing, actively moving the body, pulling it from memory, and recalling it. Organizing information includes selecting the most important pieces, associating the material with something familiar, and visualizing the information. This is a simple way to keep information fresh. Writing, reciting, and drawing the information count towards active ways to remember. Using the brain to memorize includes evenly spreading information, overlearn, and keeping a positive attitude. This is all about working with the brain and not against it. Lastly, recalling forgotten information involves thinking of something similar to the focus, noticing when it is remembered, and imagining it’s unforgettable. From these four techniques, memory is successful. These aren’t extremely strenuous or difficult, so there is no issue for a school to encourage them.

Every person learns differently and it’s important to note that, for some people, basic memorization tactics really help them understand the material. Even though pure memorization may not be best learning method, it is still a helpful way to learn and retain new material.

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Class rely too much on memorization

While memory holds an important place in many classes, there is a fine line between having a healthy amount of memorization requirements and expecting students to memorize heaps of information. Classes should not require students to  memorize material, and should instead focus on understanding and execution of the material.

Upper School Counselor Susanna Short explains the function of memory in the brain:

“During the sleep cycle, the brain is also able to comb through information and determine what should be kept and what should be let go. If certain information is deemed important, it will then be put into the long term memory,” Short said.

There are many things that students have to memorize; even if they are deemed unimportant to the student, they are required parts of class. Math formulas, dates in history, and chemical equations are all things that students have to memorize.

Though SPA classes are supposed to be more learning-based, this isn’t always true. The curriculum is fast-paced and unit tests come around the corner quickly. Students are forced to then cram their brains full of information in order to do well on the assessment. Few classes offer open note or open book tests, and as a result students have to memorize key facts in order to get a good score.

One of the biggest reasons why high expectations for memorizing can be so unrealistic and demanding for students is that memorization is harder when the brain is not interested in what it is learning. Often, homework and classwork is spent learning new information and students are expected to remember it through just taking notes and or through reading a textbook, not through interactive learning. Especially for underclassmen who have little to no choice in the classes they take, if they aren’t interested in a class, it will make it far more difficult to succeed in it.

Although teachers are in tune with incorporating these interactive activities into classes, they aren’t always used when they easily could be. Many science classes are filled with a lecture on the material as students quickly jot down notes. Math is very similar, where most of the class is spent taking notes and working out problems with the whole class. STEM classes should instead offer open note tests to ensure that students actually understand how to use a concept instead of just memorizing it.

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