Rote learning for good grades kills potential, creativity

Rote learning is a memorization technique based on repetition. The idea is that one will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the material/assignment, the more one repeats it. Rote methods are routinely used when fast memorization is required, such as learning one’s lines in a play or memorizing some special names, telephone numbers etc. Rote learning is widely used in the mastery of foundational knowledge. Examples of school topics where rote learning is frequently used include phonics in reading, the periodic table in chemistry, multiplication tables in mathematics, anatomy in medicine, cases or statutes in law, basic formulae in any science, etc. By definition, rote learning eschews comprehension, so by itself it is an ineffective tool in mastering any complex subject at an advanced level. For instance, one illustration of rote learning can be observed in preparing quickly for exams, a technique which may be colloquially referred to as “cramming “or “Mediocrity”. The term rote learning has come to define bad teaching. The term just seems not to belong in sensitive pedagogy. Good teachers don’t fire off quiz questions and catechize kids about facts. They don’t drill students on spelling or arithmetic. Drilling seems unimaginative and antisocial rather they focus on developing creativity skills in kids. “In educational circles, sometimes the phrase ‘drill and kill’ is used, meaning that by drilling the student, you will kill his or her motivation to learn.
How rote-learning restricts a child’s creativity:
Creativity in essence is the ability to invent, imagine and envision unique solutions to problems. As opposed to convergent thinking – which looks at solving problems with a single, correct answer – creativity is a form of divergent thinking that looks at problem solving through the lens of multiple possible solutions. While both divergent and convergent thinking are essential in problem solving, our education system is more inclined towards testing knowledge than knowledge development. Rote learning – or memorization of information is based on repetition, promotes convergent thinking. It begins at an early stage of our schooling when we start memorizing the alphabets, numbers and multiplication tables. Most of the school students in India suffer from the “Memory and Recall” as their predominant method for learning and problem solving. The rote-based learning method fails when subject areas become more complex and when the problem areas increase in length, breadth and depth.Focus on underlying skills such as comprehension, problem solving, critical thinking and logical reasoning ensures that the children are being prepared for a future where the most rewarding careers would need a person to be lifelong learner and adept at complex problem solving. The single biggest drawback of rote learning is, perhaps, the implication that there is only one ‘right’ answer. With years of this patterned conditioning, it limits one’s thought process affecting the student’s confidence and even self-esteem. In the long run, the approach hinders one’s creative and logical abilities, while keeping them from exploring the boundaries of possibilities. The responsibility of education, in the true sense of the term, is to help students understand from an early age that problems are opportunities to build up career. Challenges give us the glorious chance to creatively approach a situation with our very own unique perspective. However, when rote learning is used as the only learning technique, it stunts the development of divergent thinking skills, leading to a lack of creativity as well as sound problem-solving skills. Another gloomy consequence of rote learning is that it time and again kills students’ interest in learning. ‘Drill and Kill’ aptly describes the bleak teaching and learning methods that exist in a majority of schooling systems around the world. How can education defeat its very purpose by driving young minds away rather than drawing them in? In any kind of learning, there are fundamentally two important goals – retention and transfer. While retention refers to the ability to remember what is learned, transfer is the ability to use prior knowledge to solve new problems. True learning can happen only when both these goals are achieved. Several studies have established the importance of deep conceptual understanding as opposed to the bland repetition of facts. When sheer memorizing is disguised as learning, what students get is a poor substitute for real education. Instead of focusing on arriving at the ‘right’ answer as quickly as possible at all times, we need to encourage innate curiosity in children. The questions ought to inspire greater thirst for knowledge. If the goal of education is to prepare young minds to adapt and thrive in the outside world, rote learning alone cannot suffice. Children need to be taught to embrace both convergent and divergent thinking to be well-equipped to solve the many problems that life will throw their way. Most of the students, who do not develop these skills in the elementary years, rely on Rote memorization as a primary method of learning and solving problems. Such students struggle to do well in high stake exams and rewarding careers that require HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills).
The best time to develop higher cognition functions is by the age of 12-13 years. In this age, the best way to develop HOTS in this age is to give them stimulus in respective areas of comprehension, critical thinking, logical thinking, creativity and problem-solving. If kids don’t get the requisite inputs to develop these skills, they get used to learning and solving problems by Rote.
So how does rote learning affect a child’s creative thinking skills?
Rote learning affects the creative thinking of children because of it encourages “knowing” over “understanding”, as seen in the video below.
Creativity is the ability to come up with new, original, unique solutions to problems or ideas. It makes use of divergent thinking, which is solving problems with many possible solutions, as opposed to convergent thinking, which is solving problems with a single, correct answer. Rote learning, in essence, has been seen to encourage convergent thinking. When used as the sole learning technique it ignores the development of a child’s divergent thinking skills, leading to a reduced ability to think creatively. At school, most projects and assignments focus on increasing the speed at which the child solves a certain problem. They focus on arriving at the solution quickly, instead of focusing on alternative (and, perhaps, more creative) solutions to the problem.
This is how rote learning implies that there is only one “right” solution to every problem and the focus is always on establishing that answer as quickly as possible. In the long term, this discourages students from exploring the boundaries of possibilities and diminishing their ability to creatively approach every problem and situation. The other most obvious consequence of rote learning is that it kills a student’s interest in a subject. Drill and Kill is a phrase educators use to describe teaching and learning methods used to master a set of items. For Example:
1. List of muscles or bones in the body
2. Multiplication Table
3. Periodic Table of Elements
Many educators dismiss drill and kill because it promotes memorization or rote learning, as opposed to deeper, conceptual learning. Moreover, it makes students passive consumers of content, leaving them bored, listless and more importantly unwilling to learn.
While this article briefly delves into the effects of rote learning on creativity, this is but the tip of the iceberg. Rote learning affects the creative thinking of children because of it encourages “knowing” over “understanding”, as seen in the video below. A perception survey shows that nearly 80% of school Heads across the country blame rote learning for poor standards of learning. As parents, it is important to counter this by encouraging your child to participate in discussions, take online lessons and learn through interactive means as they prove to be a better alternative to learning by rote.
(The author a teacher by profession is presently working at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. View are his own)

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