Does learning by rote have any place in the modern classroom?

Essay by maheUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, May 2002

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"Rote learning is the process of acquiring material as discrete and relatively isolated entities that are relatable to cognitive structure only in an arbitrary and verbatim fashion, not permitting the establishment of meaningful relationships." (Brown ) This rather complex definition says learning by rote is not a meaningful process since the new material has little or no association with the previously acquired knowledge. Consequently, it does not have a great potential for retention. What is more, not only is it old-fashioned and difficult a process but also may require a good attention span or even photographic memory. Nevertheless, there are people who claim to see positive sides of learning by rote.

The audio-lingual method heavily based on rote learning was developed during World War II and was grounded on audio drills that were to be learned by rote in order to master the language of the enemies. It was fairly successful at that time and had its roots in behavioral psychology.

It was founded on habit formation where no errors were allowed. "Learners' errors should be corrected as soon as they are made in order to prevent the formation of bad language habits." (Lighbown and Spada ) Thus, one may assume rote learning can be successful, however, what worked fifty years ago does not necessarily have to work now. There have been "zillion" other teaching methods and techniques since then and learning by rote is too ancient to find its place in a modern classroom. Nowadays, the most popular techniques practiced are the ones with a certain degree of personalization where students are able to link the new material to their previous knowledge and interests as well.

The disadvantage of learning by rote could be best explained in opposition to meaningful learning. "Meaningful learning is a process of...